Palace of the End: A play by Judith Thompson

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By: Natalie Claire King

In 2009 Daniel Clarke, CEO and Creative Producer at Theatre Works, became enthralled by Judith Thompson’s play: Palace of The End; when he saw it at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh.  When an opportunity arose for the play to be produced, in June, at Theatre Works, Clarke pounced and began directing the performance. When speaking with Clarke he stated how: “I have been wanting to do this play for a very long time. It had a big impact on me actually and made me think a lot and want to find out more about these people and politics behind their stories”.

Performed in three monologues, Thompson re-creates the lives of those involved in the violence behind Iraq. The three characters portrayed are: Private Lynndie England, a US soldier convicted of abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib, David Kelly, a British weapons inspector who committed suicide, and Nehrjas Al Saffarh, a member of the Iraqi Communist Party persecuted by Saddam Hussein. Clarke felt that this piece of work enables the audience to empathise with the characters, who are based on and inspired by real people. Described as a blistering and unforgettable play, it allows the audience to question and think about the individuals behind the headlines.

When it comes to bringing the play to life, Clarke works individually with each actor, adapting to the varying rehearsal techniques. He believes that: “a director does have to be so open and aware that what works for one actor, might not work for another…so that’s kept me on my toes. It keeps it fresh for me,” Private Lynndie, having studied and worked together on previous projects, Clarke believes that it was always his intention to work with Norris on Palace of the End. “When I saw the play, I’d always wanted Hannah to be in it. I always knew that it was going to be a piece for her to play”.

Having with worked with Clarke on a number of shows, Norris spoke of how they both understand each other and have similar ideas about what they think is important in theatre. Learning as much as she can about her character, Norris said she tried to gain an understanding about Private Lynndie’s actions.

“Playing a character, I have to justify my actions and believe what I did was right…and as an actor, I can’t judge her actions, that’s up to the audience to decide what they feel about Lynndie and what she did and her reasons for doing it,” Norris said.

Explaining how the play portrays the impact of war and the different ways it impacts people; Norris expressed her views on Iraq and the importance of discussing the war.

“I think it’s important to still talk about the war in Iraq and the reasons that America and the UK invaded, which were false reasons, and the fact that it’s still a conflict and there’s people dying everyday and we don’t get the coverage anymore”.

Norris hopes that by opening up these discussions people will become more aware about the war and we will start to see a change, and a difference can be made.

“I have seen theatre do that to people before. I know that it can awaken people…and push them towards action”.

Directed by Daniel Clarke with parts played by Eugenia Fragos, Robert Meldrum and Hannah Norris, Palace of the End will be showing at Theatre Works, St Kilda from 5-16th of June.

Described as a ‘compelling, often shocking’ and ‘riveting’ play by The Associate Press, Palace of the End was the winner of the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

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