The title is, of course, ironic. Interrogators like to extract facts from those they interrogate, facts are what every shade of opinion claims to have in support of them, and facts are what archaeologists hope to unearth about ancient civilisations. In all these cases, ‘facts’ are open to multiple interpretations.
We are in an interrogation room in an Israeli army facility in the West Bank, a setting powerfully evoked by designer Georgia Lowe. An American archaeologist has been shot dead and some ‘facts’ have to be uncovered. The archaeologist is renowned for disputing many Biblical events and has made Zionist enemies. It soon appears that the interrogating officers - one a secularist Jew and the other a Palestinian – are going to be at loggerheads over the suspect they have waiting outside.
The suspect, Danny, is a true believer in the divine right of Israel to have its own land. So, the archetypal Middle East conflict is all teed up to be played out within a triangle of uncompromising beliefs.
This is the major fault with Arthur Milner’s play (yes, I had to look twice to check the name). It is relentlessly formulaic. For all its passionate argument, and its intricate powerplay, it remains solidly within the confines of the views represented. The characters, though superbly realised by Philip Arditti, Michael Feast and Paul Rattray never escape the shackles of being author’s mouthpieces.
This is clever but deadly drama. It has a hurtling pace, and sears across you like lightning, but the overriding tone is of a mini-thesis on the Arab/Israeli situation. It should be a gripping piece of full-blooded theatre about real people, but it sacrifices itself on the altar of Shavian debate.
A play about religion, which is therefore about politics, which is therefore about the inability of humankind to reason with itself, will always pack a philosophical punch, and we are not short-changed in that department. There is plenty to chew on here. It’s just a pity that the good, old-fashioned idea of a murder investigation gets lost along the way. A bit more emphasis on that might have given the play a more approachable dimension. As it is, it’s 80 intense minutes of highly skilled but somewhat mechanical playwriting, which can only have an inconclusive ending.