Battlefield at the Young Vic draws effective parallels between Syria and the Mahabharata

Catherine Neilan
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The cast of Battlefield at the Young Vic

Young Vic | ★★★☆

Can a 2,500-year old story tell us something new about the human condition? That was presumably one of the considerations of 90-year old playwright Peter Brook and his long time collaborator Marie-Helene Estienne when they returned to an Indian epic, the Mahabharata.

Having already told the story through their nine-hour 1989 film, the duo have distilled it further to a sparse 65 minutes, focusing on the aftermath of a war that has left a family virtually destroyed, despite their victory.

Through a series of vignettes the four actors play out philosophies concerning the human struggle – greed, mortality and grief – with comic moments breaking up the more tragic ones.

The nature of the play means some of the performances veered into caricature, although Carole Karemera was strong throughout, while drummer Toshi Tsuchitori gave the austere play a rhythmic heart.

The theme of the futility of war resonates loud and clear against the context of Syria, and Battlefield offers an engaging insight into man’s propensity to destroy himself, while stopping short of profundity.

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