So, since debate isn't being conducted in a serious way on TV and in the newspapers, theatre is taking that on, just as it did during the Restoration. Soans describes the sacking of British MP Jenny Tonge in by the then Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, as "the most disappointing event in recent British political history".
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Tonge had said that if she had lived in Palestine, she might have become a suicide bomber. Kennedy said it was a "totally unacceptable" statement. Tonge was right, Soans contends.
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The thwarting of aspirations in a domestic setting spawns violence," he says. The man who carried out the Dunblane school massacre had put in applications to the local council for various schemes, he says. In the play, it is a British army colonel, recalling his time in Northern Ireland, who says that he realised in a moment of epiphany that if he had been born in South Armagh he would have been a terrorist.
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He adds: "That's an understanding every soldier should have. None of this is personal.
That is to say it is constructed from the actual words of real people who have been interviewed about their experiences, rather than imagined by the author. His previous work in this genre includes The Arab-Israeli Cookbook. I don't set out with an agenda - I construct a play out of what I find. The voices of others are also there, including a relief worker, an archbishop's envoy, an ex-British ambassador, a journalist, a former secretary of state to Northern Ireland, and a group of young Muslims from Luton.
Edward, a psychiatrist, is a sort of guide. At one point he tells us that "the key to the ideology of violence is to see your enemy as sub-human.
They are only Jews, gays, blacks, not normal in any sense of the word. Some of the characters are easy to identify. Mo Mowlam extols the advantages of having a state car: "John and I can both go out and get pissed.
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There is Patrick Magee, the Brighton bomber, whose chilling defence of his actions is challengingly undercut by a brief scene showing the everyday life of Margaret Tebbitt since the bomb - the wife of the former Tory government minister was seriously injured in the blast and is now confined to a wheelchair. The envoy is Terry Waite, who raises a laugh with his story about asking his captors for books and getting a manual for breast feeding: "It wasn't even illustrated.
It didn't matter that the information so obtained was unreliable, as long as it confirmed that "the Islamic menace is out there". It didn't even matter that a man was boiled alive.
The Danger That Lies in Our Midst
The play shows that some of those who engaged in horrific violence were themselves the victims of such violence as very young children, and some were inducted into armies as child soldiers. The youngest at drill in the Ugandan NRA was six years old, and children that were smaller than their AK47s practised with sticks instead.
They might be made to kill their parents to show their loyalty. I'm 28 years old now; sometimes I feel 15, sometimes I'm Soans is a "very political" longtime leftie and very critical of the status quo in Britain today. Remarkably, Talking to Terrorists comes highly acclaimed by British critics right across the political spectrum: the Independent on Sunday called it "superb investigative docudrama"; the Guardian praised it for strenuously avoiding romanticising terrorism; the Daily Telegraph called it "important, illuminating and moving"; and the Sunday Express called it "startling and challenging".
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Soans says proudly that the entire Scotland Yard anti-terrorist squad came to see it. There is much with which to quarrel. Terrorists are certainly made, not born, but taking up arms is not always the inevitable response to oppression, humiliation and deprivation.
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