Theatre review: Enduring Freedom


TALKING about the September 11 2001 attacks shortly after those fateful events, journalist Robert Fisk noted that, while it was OK to ask who carried out the attacks and how they carried out the attacks, it was taboo to ask why, something that would put you "on the side of terrorists."

 

One person brave enough to ask why was young US citizen Jeremy Glick, whose father died working as a port authority worker at the World Trade Centre.

 

In a now infamous interview on Fox News’s O’Reilly Factor in 2003, Glick refused to slot in with the prevailing orthodoxy of the period and was abused and told to "shut up" by right-wing host Bill O’Reilly.

 

It is in this atmosphere of fear, blind patriotism and revenge that Anders Lustgarten’s 90-minute Enduring Freedom is set.

 

Losing their only son in the attack, husband and wife Tom and Susan McFarlane grieve in very different ways.

 

While Democrat Susan is happy to see her son’s death through the prism of the patriotism and heroism promoted by the government, Republican firefighter Tom is agitated, angry and keen to find answers.

 

This search for the truth leads to him arguing with shock jocks, writing articles, joining the anti-war movement, alienating his friends and, ultimately, endangering his marriage.

 

With a backdrop of a stonewashed US flag and soundtracked by Springsteen, Young and Dylan, Enduring Freedom is a thoughtful meditation on loss and differing definitions of patriotism.

 

Vincent Riotta and Lisa Eichhorn give exemplary performances as the emotional drained and conflicted middle-class New Jersey couple.

 

Like Tommy Lee Jones in Paul Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah, Riotta presents a believable portrait of a man who not only loses his son but his country too.

 

Elsewhere, Fiz Marcus’s switch from Machiavellian congresswoman to September 11 widow is very impressive – the small cast of six play 10 characters.

 

In addition, the Finborough’s intimate performance space enhances the play’s claustrophobic familial conflicts and one-on-one conversations.

 

Lustgarten, who is described as "a political activist as well as a playwright" in the programme, doesn’t attempt to hide his partisan politics, dedicating Enduring Freedom to "the robbed, 2000-2008."

 

It is somewhat surprising then to find the play so politically confused and contradictory.

 

Frustratingly, Tom’s questions are much the same as those of the 9/11 Truth Movement. "Why didn’t the US military scramble their jets in time?" "Why didn’t Bush heed the detailed warnings he received?"

 

In contrast, Glick was keen to point out how the US government trained and funded Osama bin Laden and co in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion, a line of criticism far more interesting and important than those that Lustgarten presents.

 

"Why do they hate us?" Tom asks his best friend in the second scene. As Enduring Freedom focuses on Tom’s personal journey of self-discovery, the audience unfortunately never finds out.

 

Plays until August 30. Box office: 0844 847 1652. 

 

Finborough Theatre, London SW10

 

 

 

Ian Sinclair is a freelance journalist based in London, England.  [email protected]

 

 

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