A surreal take on the war in Syria

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LIWA YAZJI, the writer of a new play at the Royal Court, must have known she was inviting accusations of gimmickry when she included a real flock of live goats in her script. Critics would surely complain that the caprine members of the cast of “Goats” were a mere contrivance, distracting from events and robbing a tragic drama of its gravitas. At any rate, that’s how the Syrian villagers in Ms Yazji’s play feel about the animals, after being ceremonially presented with them by the government as a publicity-stunt sop, compensating for the loss of their sons as “martyrs” to the civil war. As the flow of coffins into their village quickens and the supposedly heroic nature of the deaths becomes increasingly doubtful, the goats become (deceptively adorable) weapons in a propaganda war, part of a campaign of lurid distraction from daily atrocity. 

Hamish Pirie’s production does well to capture the hysterical mood of Syria under Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a once-functioning society shrieking towards chaos. Shrill,…Continue reading

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