NOTE: The following review dates from June 2003 and this production's original season at the Leicester Haymarket.
As the Government continues to be raked over the coals over its "dodgy dossier" reasoning for going to war with Iraq earlier this year, the latest play from writer, historian, broadcaster and confirmed dissident Tariq Ali could hardly be more topical.
The Illustrious Corpse centres on the wife of the murdered Home Secretary, who admits to killing her husband and wants her day in court to explain why. Like so many voters, Dr Jones, it transpires, is disgusted at her husband's transformation from activist to conformist, seeing his rise to a knighthood and acceptance of a Government post as treachery. And so, over 100 overly long minutes, the play explains the dissolution of the couple's relationship and her motivation for murder.
Along the way, Ali inserts his decidedly left-wing take on various issues - likening secure areas for asylum seekers to concentration camps, New Labour to the Tories and hailing terrorists as leaders of the struggle for liberation.
Despite excellent performances from a company of four - notably Russell Dixon's police chief - directed by Iqbal Khan, the piece asks a lot but delivers rather less. Alternative comedians were exploring these issues 15-plus years ago, and although the timeline is topical, the interrogation of Dr Jones by the police chief and a lawyer is simply the medium for a swipe at the Government's handling of the situation in the Middle East.
The Illustrious Corpse it may be, but it's nothing new or innovative. Instead, what could have been brilliant and incisive, becomes just another platform for airing some familiar political views.
- Elizabeth Ferrie (reviewed at Leicester Haymarket)