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THEATRE REVIEW Acute parliamentary question from Fritz

The playwright’s interrogation of why people are driven to acts of terrorism is a pressing one for those in power, says PAUL FOLEY

Parliament Square
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

WHAT drives someone to commit an act of complete desperation in the hope that it will change things for the better? Given the senseless events that have happened at Manchester Arena and elsewhere so far this year, that simple question, posed in James Fritz’s Parliament Square, makes it a timely and necessary play.

Its protagonist, Kat, can no longer sit by and watch the world descend into chaos. The relentless despair pouring form the news bulletins has seeped into her bones.

Something drastic needs to happen if there is any hope of change — and she’s the person to do it.

In the opening scene, she struggles with her inner demon as to the merits of her intended action and her courage falters as she thinks of the husband, daughter and mother she will leave behind. What if her selfless sacrifice makes no difference? But the voice of her conscience spurs her on.

Kat’s actions not only have profound repercussions for her, her family and the innocent bystanders drawn into her pain-filled world. The scars are lasting.

Esther Smith’s Kat and Lois Chimimba as her inner voice have a great chemistry and the struggle between them is riveting and utterly believable, while Jude Christian’s tight direction keeps the play moving towards its astonishing conclusion.

There are some minor quibbles about the play’s structure, especially in its middle section, but Fritz deserves great credit for tackling an uncomfortable subject that needs to be explored if we are ever to understand what drives people to commit desperate acts.

Every day more and more people find themselves excluded in a world that offers them and their children no hope of a better future. And faced with that hopeless prospect, people can and are driven to do unthinkable things in the desperate hope that those with the power will listen.

But, as Kat’s mother says: “Single acts of outrage make no difference. Change will only happen by people working together to create a better world.”

Runs until October 28, box office: royalexchange.co.uk, then transfers to the Bush Theatre, London, from November 30-January 6, box office: bushtheatre.co.uk.

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