Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Observer by Matt Charman

The Travelex sponsorship of certain plays at the National Theatre surely puts the price of a good seat for a great play in a fantastic theatre complex within reach of anyone on the UK average wage? £10 buys any seat selected on the web. We chose two seats in the midlle of the front row of the Cottlesoe's stalls - £20 compared with the normal price of £62 was a good deal.

The play itself was was far more than just a good deal. Riveting, dramatic and educational stuff. The plot was about a west African country with a Zimbabwe style presidential election in progress. The observer was a woman from the UN group appointed to check on the fairness of the elections. Refreshingly for theatre many of the actors and audience were black. Especially clever was the way the African translator whose relationship with the white woman observer was one of the many intriguing subplots of the play, translated as members of the African electorate bewailed the murders and beatings that were besetting the vote. The presidential henchman and army general acted brilliantly as did the Chairwoman of the African Electoral committee. The latter was deposed when unlike in the real life scenario in Zimbabwe, the president eventually made his concession speech to his protagonist. The sense of fear and foreboding at a meeting at the interpreter's home township was palpable.

An eyeopener for a too comfortable middle class Englishman such as yours truly, was to see through the eyes of Anna Chancellor, who played the Observer's role with great aplomb, how one cannot simply assume that British standards of fairness and democracy should, let alone could, necessarily apply to other States at different stages of development. After all our parliament has been around for some 800 years and is stll far from perfect. Why should other nations be expected to evolve democratically more quickly?

The British Foreign Official (again brilliantly acted) who disclosed that the FO had kept tabs on Anna even to the extent of reading her emails to her husband back in London, showed how far we in Britain still have to go in evolving a fair democracy so are in no real position to preach to others.

1 comment:

  1. Resonates with shades of the current furore about Elections in Afganistan too.


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