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'Betrayed' Directed by Leann O’Kasi

'Betrayed' Directed by Leann O’Kasi

Issue 70 July 2010

Review by Amir Rizwan

The month of May saw the Tron Theatre in Glasgow hosting the Mayfesto season which consisted of gripping and harrowing dramas with an international twist. A play which caught my eye was ‘Betrayed’ by George Packer. Betrayed is an 80 minute drama set in Baghdad pre and post occupation. It is based on an article written by George Packer for The New Yorker where he raised the issue surrounding the lack of protection and assistance offered to those who risked their lives for coalition forces. The story revolves around three young Iraqis who volunteer as translators working in the American Green Zone. Initially,  the audience is given a glimpse into their hopes and aspirations on the eve of an Iraq devoid of Saddam Hussain where anything seems possible. The trio of characters offer a plethora of differing hopes. There is Adnan who believes that working with the Americans will allow him to finally “belong” to something, Laith is shown to be fascinated by Western culture (illustrated by his love for Metallica) with a dream to travel the world and finally there is Intisar who is a fan of Emily Bronte and dreams of an Iraq where women are liberated.

This is however short lived as we see the deteriorating security conditions in Iraq leading to the three being ostracized by their community for being traitors. These scenes bring to light the bleak reality of day to day life for translators. It is in these scenes that we see the nonchalant attitude of the American security forces as the translators plea for help are brushed aside.  Throughout the second half of the play the audience are given an insight into the two tier system that exists within the American Green Zone whereby those of Iraqi origin are treated with suspicion and are labelled as “one of them” by US forces. The story reaches a grim finale, Intisar is brutally murdered for refusing to act in accordance with the strict religious doctrines set by the militia in her area.

The set itself was simple, for me credit has to go to the lighting which transitioned seamlessly between warm orange to represent the blazing Baghdad sun to a cool blue to represent the harsh and cold American base. I was fortunate enough to have seen the play with a group of ex Iraqi translators who have not fled. Asking one of them whether they thought the play was a fair representation of their plight, Abdullah replied that it was. He went on to describe the lack of respect shown by these forces to them and the hurdles they had to jump in order to gain asylum. He mentioned that he lost many friends and family and that it is not safe for him to return. While the West routinely awards those for valiant achievements in the Iraq war it is sad to see that they have failed to recognise this small group for the sacrifices they made by choosing to work with them.

 

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