War requiem - Traverse
New director of the Traverse Dominic Hill’s own directorial debut is an unobtrusive choice. Kirstin Innes meets Zinnie Harris, the playwright behind Fall
Zinnie Harris is tucked into a booth at the back of the Traverse bar, away from all the pre-Festival madness, when we meet to talk about the similarly unobtrusive-sounding Fall, the third part of a trilogy of plays looking at ordinary individuals affected by the brutality of war. The first two parts, Solstice and Midwinter, were commissioned and performed by the RSC, but Scottish audiences shouldn’t find the continuity too difficult.
‘I’m not sure that they’re all necessarily about the same war, or even set in the same country,’ says Harris. ‘They’re standalone plays – what links them is the idea that war has cycles like the seasons, from the tiny events that spark conflict, to the awful, horrendous loss of life. Fall is set after the war, at a war crimes tribunal. It’s about the thin line between justice and revenge – how does a country deal with the crimes of an old regime and allow the culture to move forward into an era of peace?’
There’s obvious thematic resonance there with recent current events, but Harris won’t allow Fall to be pinned down as a post-Iraq piece.
‘No, it’s definitely not directly about Iraq. What’s been happening there as I’ve been writing the trilogy (she began in 2003) has obviously fed in, though, and Fall was partly written in response to Saddam’s execution. I wanted to explore how easy it is to look on from the West and condemn the choices that have been made; whether one really has a right to make those judgements if one hasn’t lived through it.’
Despite the huge scale of her subject matter, though, Fall is still about personal moments rather than the grand abstracts of diplomatic negotiation or military tactics.
‘Perhaps with this one I’m taking a more overt look at those decisions that are made higher up, but, you know, just because one of the characters is the prime minister doesn’t mean I’m not examining how he conducts all of his affairs. And Dominic’s doing a brilliant job with the direction. He’s very, very sensitive to the script and what it’s about – the tiny moments as much as the larger pieces of drama.’
Fall, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Sun 3–Sun 24 Aug, various times. Previews Thu 24–Sat 26 Jul & Sat 2 Aug, £11 (£5).