I went to see ‘Tactical Questioning’ at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, London on Friday night – a play contructuted from editing the transcripts of the inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa in British army captivity in Basra in 2003. This was fascinating and gripping. And an extraordinary illustration of the power of dramatic dialogue. Watching this play was like attending a masterclass in how to write dialogue. Although, ironically, none of it was ‘written’ as such.
Six men were shown being questioned by the inquiry for their recollections of the events that led to Baha Mousa’s death. What was most striking was how each of the ‘characters’ spoke with a completely distinctive voice and pattern of speech. And all had their own unique, highly idiosyncratic verbal ‘tics’ – in the case of one squaddie talking much too fast; in the case of armed forces minster Adam Ingram continuous repetition of the same meaningless, evasive platitudes; in the case of one of the corporals, sullen, monosyllabic responses.
What each of them said, but more particularly how each of them spoke, expressed so eloquently their level of anxiety, their contrasting conviction or lack of it. With the more slippery, their lies were painfully obvious. Conversely, with the most junior squaddie, wracked by guilt and now determined to come clean about his role in Mousa’s death, his passion and honesty shone through.
Sadly the production has now finished but, for an insight into the correlation between character, dialogue and subtext, I urge you to get hold of a copy of the text. Here’s a link from where to buy it –
All the best
July 4th 2011