Lyttelton Theatre, National
(10mins) Follow signs for exits to the South Bank. This should lead you to an underground pedestrian passage called ‘Sutton Walk’ that emerges at the South Bank. Turn right and walk along the river Thames until you see the National Theat
|Booking From:||Wednesday, 15th September 2010|
|Booking Until:||Tuesday, 2nd November 2010|
In his previous play at the National J T Rogers tackled ethnic cleansing in Africa his play the Overwhelming in the Cottesloe. This time around his new play is in the Lyttleton theatre and once again he has picked another huge political subject: Western involvement in Afghanistan during the 1980's. This is an expanded version of the play seen last year at the Tricycle Theatre as part of The Great Game season (now touring the United States). Directed by Howard Davies, Blood and Gifts is a bitingly funny, slick political thriller which ultimately leaves the audience with a chill running down their spine.
The play follows the operation of a CIA agent James Warnock (Lloyd Owen) newly arrived in Afghanistan. His job is to get a steady line of intelligence from the front line of the conflict between the Afghans and the Russians. To do this, he makes contact with a faction, commanded by a man called Abdullah (Demosthenes Chysan). In exchange for information, he will provide them with money, weapons and the occasional tape full of Western bands (the cell have a fascination with bands like the Eagles and Duran Duran). The CIA agent has to cope with restrictions as to where he can and can't go politically, a Russian Operative called Gromov who seems to know an awful lot about him and continuously fluctuating relations between the Pakistani and the factions in the Afghan army. The play moves at a swift pace, informative and intriguing at the same time.
The first act always feels on the edge of conflict and constantly dangerous whether out in the field or in the negotiating room. The second half deals more with Warnock's compulsion to return to finish the job he started. It examines the love hate relationship he has with his job and then goes further by examining the cost the job in Afghanistan has had on all of the men's lives and whether their actions have made matters better or worse.
This is a timely play and one which forces us to re examine the roots of the current conflict in Afghanistan. Lloyd Owen is wonderfully reserved and determined as Warnock . He is given superb support across the board from this wonderful cast but special mention must be made of Matthew Marsh who makes the Russian operative Gromov a fully fleshed out human being without a hint of caricature and Philip Arditti as Saeed, who displays wonderful comic timing and manages to balance a wide eyed openness to Western culture while remaining passionately committed to his cause. Howard Davies has directed an instant modern political classic. If you are a fan of The West Wing or Charlie Wilson's War, you will have a thrilling, thought provoking evening at the National Theatre.
Blood and Gifts by J T Rodgers at the National Theatre - Lyttelton Theatre.
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