by Arthur Milner
Scripting the Cops
After disappearing off the celebrity scene, it takes guts to reappear, as Kerry Katona or Frank Sinatra can testify. ;) But TLT and her somewhat dusty steed (horsepower rather than horse meat!) decided to make a comeback for this intriguing Canadian play. A Jewish-Israeli (Michael Feast) and a Palestinian detective (Philip Arditti) meet in a tiled Israeli military unit, the latter arriving after negotiating checkpoints, to investigate an American archeologist’s murder on the West Bank. Outside their usual local comfort zones, the archeologist's nationality forces them to take national and world opinion into account. Growing above the Palestinian and Israeli impasse, in fact (geddit?!), the play turns into a much more tricksy and close-to-the-bone dissection of policing worldwide and military-dominated land. That is: the use (and abuse) of technology and a police mindset rooted in literary and screenwriting stereotypes, software multiple choice, competing academic hypotheses and, yes, nationalistic ideology. Everything, save evidence-based investigations. In short, amid this all, what are the facts? Was this clear from the preview performance at The Finborough directed by Caitlin McLeod? One has to say, 'Only sporadically'. Maybe the fault lies in the script, maybe in an uncertain production, or perhaps a bit of both. Eventually the Jewish militant settler suspect, a property manager and nimble offspring of a lawyer, joins the detectives for interrogation in a canny performance by Paul Rattray. However, it takes a very attuned ear to catch the hints undermining the stereotypes put forward - and they are just faint hints planted amid the red herrings in this piece. It could be this play, despite, or indeed because of, its arguments, needs a more Pinteresque approach to allow the audience to assimilate the ironies underlying the oft trundled-out and well-rehearsed formulas about crime scenarios and Israel/Palestine. Consideration rather than choler. This discussion of policing and technology should seem vital in a week which has spotlighted local level South African police abuse, often hidden when not filmed, and British children turned into stock computer program figures within school report software for administrative convienience. Instead, if TLT has interpreted correctly why the play may seem schematic, the myths and formulas, instead of counterpointing, are allowed to outweigh the meaning. Of course TLT and friend may have got this totally wrong - something you're unlikely to hear any police officer admit nowadays unless instructed by a professional liability insurance company lawyer or an approved police software program ;) An amber light for a production tackling important issues which may still have the potential to become a must-see if it finds its feet during the run.