“Has anyone ever told the truth?”
Can I recommend Goats, even with live goats appearing onstage with the cast? Not by the hairs on my chinny chin chin. There’s definitely something interesting at the nub of Liwaa Yazji’s play, based on so many real events from her native Syria, but it has yet to achieve dramatically effective form. Whether lost in translation into English (by Katharine Halls) or onto the stage (by Hamish Pirie), it is hard-going indeed.
The problem is a pace that is stultifyingly slow. And in a society completely riven by conflict, increasingly divested of its young blood by rising death tolls, it shouldn’t be so. As Yazji interrogates the madness of an ongoing civil war, where the families of dead soldiers are rewarded for their sacrifice with the gift of a goat, where neither side can really be considered ‘good’, where the role of propaganda muddies the water even further, the potential is clear.
But there’s no energy to Goats. Dialogue is stilted, scenes riven with longueurs of inaction, the clarity of what should be devastating storytelling hampered by unnecessary detours into random subplots and technological interventions which ultimately add little. And, it is sad to say, the goats. Their presence – as amusing as it is – is a constant distraction and if there’s something theoretically clever about that, reflecting the propagandist aims of the regime, there’s no hiding the fact they are the only thing interesting about a confused production.