Theatre Review: Public Interest at the New Diorama Theatre

Searing political drama on the torture of Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa in PUBLIC INTEREST at the New Diorama

Public Interest, written by Drew Ballantyne, takes on a powerful real-life subject matter which divided a nation.

Two intelligence officers grapple with the justification of torture before appearing at a public enquiry into the death of Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa, who was relentlessly beaten by British soldiers. He suffered more than 90 blows.

Tim Dewberry is the ambitious young soldier Captain Lucas trying to persuade his colleague to tow the party line – yet haunted by lingering doubts and a personal tragedy. Sidney Kean is cast as the philosophical and battle-worn Colonel Warner determined to justify his career. Ellie, played with vigour by Rachel Marwood, is the feisty waitress gradually joining their debate. In one memorable moment when cornered by an aggressive Captain Lucas, she shrugs: “He’s wooing me.”

The character of Ellie seemed slightly forced into the tension and the play also went on slightly too long. The most enjoyable part was watching two military foes, played convincingly and with passion by Kean and Dewberry, as they argue about current conflicts and institutionalised beliefs.

It is no mean feat handling a story based on torturing with intelligence, subtly and humour – but this political drama somehow pulls it off.

* Showing at the New Diorama Theatre in Triton Street, Regents Place, NW1 until Saturday, June 25.