Carthage Must Be Destroyed
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 27 Apr - Sat 19 May
The history play is, and has always been, a way to speak of contemporary times. Just as Shakespeare’s versions of Henry V, Richard III and even King Lear were more a commentary on contemporary events than the past, so every history play since has been about the period in which it was written rather than the period in which it is set.
Alan Wilkins’ new play, Carthage Must Be Destroyed, looks at the Third Punic Wars - seemingly a great distance from our own period - with an eye, if not to total historical accuracy, then to a representation of the spirit of the age.‘I wouldn’t have written the play if I hadn’t been interested in talking about Iraq, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a direct metaphor,’ Wilkins explains. ‘Once I decided to write a play about the third Punic War, I avoided any changes to make a character look more like Bush or Rumsfeld and so on. The politics are both personal and national.’
Wilkins’ play throws light on a society, represented through the personal dealings of four political figures and a cynical conspiracy to create a war, which parallels our own.
‘I suppose the big parallel is that the war was fought on very dodgy grounds after slogans had been repeated by influential people again and again. It’s interesting that in 149BC the same methods were used as today.’
The upper political strata seem strikingly similar in the two societies. ‘It’s as if there’s this elite who are able to play a media game, and people outside who aren’t considered,’ says Wilkins. ‘Voters are regarded as just a nuisance, and that’s certainly a parallel with the way that the elites behave in the play.’