(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/26; The Vertical Hour is available in the anthology Acts of War; an Amazon link for this is at the lower left of this Web site.)
The timing is uncanny. With Britain poised to join air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq, the Park has chosen to revive David Hare’s 2006 play which deals, in part, with the consequences of our last invasion of that country. The circumstances may be different but Hare’s eloquent, disquisitory play suggests global politics can never be divorced from private psychology.
The core of the play lies in a predawn confrontation in a garden in the Welsh borders. The host, Oliver, is a caustic, liberal idealist who has retreated into private life but who offers a stinging attack on the consequences of the 2003 Iraq invasion: one that I remember hearing a Broadway audience warmly applaud.
His house guest is Nadia, a Yale politics professor, former war correspondent and advocate of “humane intervention” who is dating Oliver’s son. Even if one can guess where Hare stands on the main issue, he has the natural dramatist’s ability to present both sides of the case and to expose the flaws in both characters. Oliver’s poised urbanity masks his disastrous failure as a husband and father while Nadia’s belief in America’s missionary role is partly dictated by her own addictive craving for the dangers of war reporting.