It’s 2016 and in the Syrian village in which the play is set, several young men are about to be buried as martyrs, purportedly killed by terrorists. The coffins are closed, and whilst one grieving mother has sworn never to speak again, schoolteacher Abu Firas refuses to let his teenage son be interred until he has seen the actual body.
He’s determined to cut through the “fake news” disseminated by the official media and by Amer Hiehel’s smooth talking Abu al-Tayyib in order to learn the truth and find out just why it is that their young men always come back in sealed coffins, never as injured casualties of war.
And the goats? They’re the compensation given to each family with a “martyred” son – livestock, yes, but also a distraction and a pitiful substitute for lost young life
But though obviously passionately felt, the production, directed by Hamish Pirie, is only intermittently engaging, sometimes confusing and still too long even though a programme note states that the translation (by Katharine Halls) is shorter than the original Arabic version.
The goats, though, are consistently watchable as they wander round the set – and for too much of the time one tends to be more interested in what they might get up to next than where this disturbing, but patchy, drama is headed.
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
Until 30th December 2017
£12.00 – £38.00