Although Congress is not exactly a stranger to dramatic shenanigans, no one imagined it becoming a theatrical touring house. Until now. On April 6, the Rayburn foyer on Washington’s Capitol Hill will be the venue for a once-in-a-lifetime engagement of the Tricycle Theater’s much-talked-about production of “Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom.”
That’s less of a leap when you consider the story so far: A powerful verbatim theater piece about the injustice suffered by Guantanamo detainees starts out at a London off-West End venue, sells out, moves into town, then plays not only Lahore, Pakistan; Brazil; New Zealand; Sweden’s Royal National Theater; San Francisco; Chicago; and New York, but a performance inside the U.K. Houses of Parliament.
This, the mother of all transfers, will allow members of Congress to see the impact of government policy on individuals held indefinitely and without trial. And before anyone accuses writers Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo of hitching a fictional ride on factual headlines, the words are wholly taken from recorded testimony from detainees, their letters home, statements from the families of prisoners, their lawyers and statements made by American and British politicians. Should Donald Rumsfeld be passing by, he may be intrigued to see and hear his words being repeated.
Nicholas Kent, the Tricycle’s artistic director for 22 years (and co-director with Sacha Wares of “Guantanamo”) is understandably pleased by the location, which fits one of his theater’s many profiles. “The Tricycle has always been a theater trying to challenge social injustice and has always been politically active,” he tells Variety.
For this one-time-only show, the British cast — all donating their services — is being joined by Mike Farrell, best known as Capt. B.J. Hunnicut of TV’s “MASH,” who will play U.S. Marine Major Mori, the defense lawyer for Guantanamo detainees. “He is the unsung American hero of all this,” Kent adds.
Back home, Kent is planning the Tricycle’s future, shifting focus onto an even wider issue. “We’re developing a project on global warming with Simon Beaufoy, who wrote ‘The Full Monty.’ ” The fall season will open with the welcome return of Indhu Rubasingham‘s pin-sharp production of Lynn Nottage‘s cautionary comedy “Fabulation.”
First seen there in February, it was the third in a season of African-American plays with a black ensemble cast, which Kent believes to be the first of its kind in the U.K. The season’s other hit was Paulette Randall‘s production of August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.” If he can make the numbers and dates work, he’ll bring that back, too.
Crossing the pond
One person currently notorious for not returning is David Hare, whose decision to open his next play in the U.S. and not at the National Theater has bizarrely ruffled a few British journalistic feathers.
Hare’s choice isn’t exactly perplexing, given that the play is about an American woman, to be played by Julianne Moore, and that it will be helmed by Sam Mendes, who famously directed Hare’s “The Blue Room.” Mendes likely is anxious to shore up his Stateside reputation with a return to the stage after disappointing box office on his last two movies.
Those accusing Hare of desertion seem curiously blind to the fact that playwrights are a cheerfully promiscuous bunch who rarely tether themselves to one permanent address for the simple reason that changing circumstances create more diverse output. Indeed, Hare’s immediate project isn’t at the National either: His adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s “Enemies” is in rehearsal at the Almeida.