Complicit

Published January 29, 2009

Boasting a stellar cast including two Academy Award nominated actors, the Old Vic stages the world premiere of Joe Sutton’s Complicit, a political play written in response to the changing face of America post 9/11.

Ben Kritzer, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist finds himself before a Grand Jury, faced with the decision to behave like a citizen of his country or as a journalist. Having previously written a now infamous opinion piece stating his belief that Americans were too ‘squeamish’ about torture – seemingly opening the doors to water-boarding and sleep deprivation – Ben wrote an all too exposing article on America’s ever-shifting principles and use of torture techniques. Now labelled a traitor and a spy by the American government, Ben must reveal his sources, going against all his political values and belief in freedom of the press, or face 20 years imprisonment.

Richard Dreyfuss’s weary Ben almost seems resigned to his fate. Increasingly broken throughout the performance, his true fears are not admitted until the very end. A level of intellectual arrogance shields his real demons; revelling in his belief in the press’s right to print the truth so ardently, he can ignore his sneaking suspicions that he was in someway complicit in making his country less safe. But no longer understanding or recognising the system he finds himself within, Ben has to question whether his own gain was worth the consequences.

His lawyer and friend Roger (David Suchet) acts as the voice of reason, putting his career on the line at a time when no-one wants to be seen to be working against their country. At first shocked by the Judge’s attitude and accepted changes in the judicial system, he revels in the challenge and forces Ben to think outside of his profession. However, this is a play where no-one is as scrupulous as first thought, and Roger realises he must work within the system in order to win.

From outside the courtroom, Ben’s wife Judy (Elizabeth McGovern) pleads with Ben to consider his family. Aware of his desire to take a bullet for journalism, her desperation for him not to be a hero for the cause only serves to force Ben to further search his conscience.

Set in the round, the characters walk on a glass, circular set below which flat screen TVs flash showing clips of 9/11 and speeches by Bush and Blair, lit up during scene changes in demonic fashion.  The action is paused intermittently for the audience to watch an interview between Ben and Andrew Marr on screens above the stage, allowing the full political story to slowly reveal itself.

Complicit throws a new light on a subject that is all too relevant to the world today. A subject that, as Ben protests, is being dealt with all too silently, the protesters of the Vietnam War now long disappeared. 

CM

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