Aftermath is a docu-play written by husband/wife Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen (USA) based on face-to-face interviews with Iraq war-affected civilians. Editor-in-chief Ian Nisbet talks to Blank.
Originally produced by the New York Theater Workshop, "[Aftermath] uses the words of actual civilians who lived through the Iraq invasion and aftermath," Blank says. The play discusses war in general but specifically from the perspective of ordinary people who are stuck in a war zone whilst just trying to go about their lives.
Blank and Jensen travelled to Jordan in 2008 to conduct interviews and learnt that some of the civilians initially welcomed the war. Unfortunately, after years of uncertainty and bungled military efforts, some began to yearn for their pre-war days under Saddam Hussein. Over a period of two weeks Blank and Jensen spoke to 35 war-affected Iraqi citizens with the help of CIVIC: Campaign For Innocent Victims In Conflict.
Although Blank and Jensen were (and still are) opposed to the Iraq war and actively protested against the US invasion, Blank stresses that their work as playwrights is not political: "we tried to actively leave our own ideology and opinions out of the play."
Translators provided by CIVIC helped choose the interview subjects. The translators themselves were from a variety of backgrounds; although all three were Iraqi citizens, one was Christian, another Muslim, and the last was Sabian – another prominent religion in Iraq.
Blank and Jensen had a clear artistic intention: "to let people tell their stories on a human level – to say what it's like to live in Iraq today." Every character in the show is based on a civilian Blank and Jensen met except for the translator who is a composite of their three translators who becomes a dramatic guide for the audience.
Not much has changed in Iraq since the play was researched and written (2008-9) and, although Australia has withdrawn its troops and America has begun its own extraction, the reality portrayed in the play is the continuing reality today. This is the day-to-day life for those living in Iraq and for the estimated 8 million refugees living in Syria and around the globe.
"The height of the [US] occupation was 2008-9 and since then things may have shifted but what happened afterwards was so botched it plunged the entire country into chaos."
Aftermath plays October 11-14 at the Malthouse Theatre, Merlyn Theatre. Full info. here.