Review: On The Record, Arcola Theatre

“I just think it’s my right to talk, to be free, to write. I’m not special, I just decided to do this”

iceandfire are a theatre company dedicated to exploring stories about the struggle for human rights through performance. Their latest work, which has now just closed at the Arcola, was On the Record by Christine Bacon and Noah Birksted-Breem, a mixture of verbatim work and theatrical reconstructions following the stories of six investigative journalists battling to expose their horrific stories from across the globe.

Their reports are first given under the pretext of a conference on press freedom, indicating the importance of reporting free from undue influence, to tell the stories we might not want to hear but which we simply must. Then from Sri Lanka to Iraq, Mexico to Russia and the Middle East, we see each of them at work, risking their lives in a multitude of ways from a multitude of enemies.

Caught in a hazy place between genuine theatre and a kind of reportage, the show was never less than gripping in its unflinching portrayal of some of the horrors that are perpetrated in this world of ours and the corruption that lies behind it. The ensemble playing, the six actors all cover several small roles as well as one key part each, ensures a lightness of touch which keeps things from becoming too bogged down in worthiness. There is though a slight lack of balance that emerges too, the roles of the journalist are beyond question, beyond reproach, this lack of interrogation of both sides detracts a little from the bigger picture, though this was a thought that only came to be in the bar later – it didn’t affect the actual show.

And what powerful stories, paired with some stunning performances: Nathalie Armin as the Mexican Lydia Cacho battling to break a paedophile ring, barely able to look at the evidence she uncovers; Kika Markham’s extraordinary Amira Hass, a Palestinian-supporting Jewish reporter and Trevor White’s intrepid Zoriah Miller, risking all to be a voice (and camera) of conscience on Iraqi battlefields. Sobering accounts all, you’ll never quite complain about having a bad day in the office in the same way after seeing what these people put themselves through in the name of justice.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 13th August

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