Palace of the End, named for Saddam Hussein's torture chamber-filled palace, brings together three unrelated individuals touched by the war in Iraq. We meet the US soldier who gained worldwide infamy after she was photographed smiling and giving the thumbs-up next to a naked Iraqi detainee at Abu Ghraib prison (Jade Williams); Dr David Kelly, the British scientist who killed himself following leaking the truth about the threat of Iraq’s WMD capabilities (Robin Soans); and the widow of the head of the Iraqi communist party (Imogen Smith) who underwent torture under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Aside from a distractingly strange West Virginia accent from Williams, the cast do a fine job with a script that is too reliant on facts to ever be truly dramatic. Palace of the End may have won the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe 2009 for its engaging human rights message, but playwright Judith Thompson’s characters, David Kelly most grievously, are all too frequently two-dimensional amalgamations of news stories rather than fully developed dramatic characters.

Thompson touches upon a number of major ethical and political issues in this play, about responsibility, truth, storytelling, torture and gender politics, but stops short of a proper discussion of any of them. Some of the play’s strongest moments are those that address patriarchy and women’s agency within the power structures that limit them; it is in presenting the imagined thoughts and feelings of the women whose stories she tells (rather than the verbatim-lite style that otherwise prevails) that Thompson lands her punches.