Oslo (National Theatre)

Perhaps its not surprising in a world where politics (and politicians) seem so central to the everyday news agenda but there’s been a real appetite for political theatre in the last 18 months. We had This House an examination of 1970s whips offices inside the Commons, Limehouse and Committee at the Donmar exploring the formation of the SDP and the parliamentary select committee enquiry into the failure of the Kids Company charity respectively, and now with Oslo, The National is exploring a subject with an international political resonance.

Exposing the big and small politics surrounding a series of clandestine back channel meetings between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) exiled in Tunisia – Oslo has a big hit on Broadway and has now found it’s way to the stage of the Lyttleton Theatre before transferring to The Harold Pinter’s West End stage.

The first Palestinian Intifada had reached a stalemate – Gaza and The West Bank are stuck in a retaliatory cycle of strikes and counter strikes and US sponsored peace negotiations are going precisely nowhere, not least because Yasser Arafat’s PLO are banned from the negotiations.

Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul and her sociologist husband, Terje Rød-Larsen broker the unofficial series of talks in a Oslo hotel behind the backs of the rest of the world, including the Americans. Progress is remarkable and by the end of this snappy and hugely watchable 3 hours we’re at a stage where the world watches a famous handshake in front of Bill Clinton’s Whitehouse Isreali Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

It would ultimately be a short-lived peace deal, and a second intifada follows soon after. In fact Rabin was assassinated by a Zionist furious for the concessions made by the Olso Accords, however we end the play full of hopefulness that reminds us that for the majority on both sides, there is a real appetite for peace.

Unlike international pop politics, this a play without pin ups and stars but features a brilliant ensemble cast pulling together, becoming a greater sum than their individual parts. And I think that’s the point.


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