Occupational Hazards @ Hampstead Theatre
Cast includes Silas Carson, Vincent Ebrahim and Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Rory Stewart.
Running Time: 1 hour 40 mins, no interval.
Occupational Hazards is the latest offering from Hampstead Theatre, which has its origins in the memoir of the same name by current MP Rory Stewart. This memoir is taken from his time spent in Iraq shortly after the downfall of the Taliban and the efforts of the British to ensure that democracy works in the newly freed country.
The narrative of the piece is good, however, in transitioning to the stage it suffers a bit from many similar scenes – there is a lot of times that two characters (one of which is regularly Stewart) discuss an issue, and then one of them storms out. The other thing that happens is that there is a lot of direct audience address, which in itself is not bad, however it tends to be Stewart addressing the audience, which can make it seem repetitive. It also is slightly slow, which can makes the running time feel slightly overlong.
The set of the piece is especially effective – it utilises the flexible space in Hampstead well, in a way that could not be done in a traditional space. The piece also has very good transitions, which clearly define the space in a short space of time. This is particularly effective towards the end of the piece, in which the set descends into devastation. It also uses screen projection onto the set well, especially during the army scenes, and works exceptionally well.
The cast work well with the material – however, there are time where many of the characters feel less rounded than desired. Vincent Ebrahim plays a wonderful Abu Rashid, however, the character leaves fairly early in the piece, which is particularly sad as his character brought a lot of light relief to the show. Silas Carson is good as Karim, bringing a dignified superiority to the role. Of especial note is Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Rory Stewart – he is very good in a demanding role (he is present in most scenes) and feel accurate in capturing Stewart well.
Summary: A slightly slow yet thought-provoking look at the political handover in Iraq. ***