How truthful is Western media? How representative is the UN? Who profits from the World Bank? Is GDP a relevant measure of development? Not questions you ask yourself everyday, but certainly more important than the does-Gaddafi has-one-d-or-two that I have been asking myself for the last hour. In An Interview with Gaddafi writer Reggie Adams uses the Libyan revolution of 2011 to ask broader questions about the purpose and motives of some of the world’s big institutions.
Playing from June 3 – 29 at London’s Waterloo East Theatre, An Interview with Gadaffi stars Jonathan Hansler as the over-wrought, unusually named Englishman Bellamy Johan. He is a middle-aged journalist who once scooped the world with a General Pinochet interview. Now though his editor and children see him as a dinosaur, struggling to survive in the modern world of social media and blogging. Believing that news journalism should be about the truth rather than dumbed down entertainment he finds himself in Libya during the last days of the Gaddafi regime.
Johan works for a ‘mainstream media organisation’ in London called the PBC – a sort of ITV or Channel 4. Having been paid for years without finding any big stories he needs this last project to work out. Conveniently for him his London neighbour has contacts in Libya. All that our famous-but-fading journalist has to do is pitch up at the Benghazi hotel and someone is arranging for him to interview the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Walles Hamonde impersonates Gaddafi in flowing earthy robes and trademark sunglasses. He has a busy night, also playing Johan’s neighbour in London and the neighbour’s cousin in Libya, both of which are nicely differentiated.
Christianne Oliveira and Andre Lawden play the other roles that appear on stage, including angry wife and female bodyguard and oil and banking speculators. But these are undeveloped bit-parts. Johan is the complete focus of the play, the others merely circulating around him, appearing when necessary to force his actions or answer the questions that he asks Dr Watson-style to help the audience understand the complexities of what is going on.
The different scenes – whether in London or Libya – are all created using two chairs which are merely turned and repositioned. This works well as they become a taxi, a plane, or a hotel lobby. But the production also uses projections on a screen at the back of the stage. This is superfluous when showing a still photograph of the location – for example a kitchen or airplane cabin. Where it is a positive addition is when it introduces characters on film, letting us see the Skype conversations that Bellamy has with his children, editor and wife. The daughters are particularly raucous and true-to-life, although one of them has highly unlikely CIA-level hacking skills.The clips are not always timed perfectly, Bellamy finishing speaking too soon for the pre-recorded comments to flow quite realistically.
Writer Reggie Adams has eclectic interests that includes being a nightclub owner, humanist, musician and playwright. Here he has created a provocative piece, postulating many failures in the world’s organisation and institutions. Whether these views are more correct than those of the mainstream western media being berated is unclear, unless you are an expert on Libya and macro-economics. The blurb for An Interview with Gaddafi claims it to be ‘one part drama, one part political message and two parts pure entertainment’. I would up the political message percentage and reduce the others considerably. Rather than ‘pure entertainment’ it is a lecture on the ills of a world claimed to be controlled by business and powerful nations. It is thought-provoking, but for the layman it really needs a bibliography or further reading list to be handed out at the end.