Angry young man
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Date: 3 February, 2004


Photo: Charlotte Haines Lyon

'God is a transformative and dynamic power in the world and that however imperfect such offerings may be, He is able to catch them up and bring out of them, more than we can ever ask or conceive.”





 

Charlotte Haines-Lyon meets Justin Butcher, the playwright and actor who's written two anti-war satires

In November 2002,
a young playwright got mad. His name is Justin Butcher and he had been interrogated by the FBI in a Romanian bar after criticising American foreign policy.

His anger and indignation at the behaviour of the US and the seeming inability of the UK to challenge it, caused him to write The Madness of George Dubya in a matter of days. The bellicose satire, criticising the proposed war on Iraq, moved to London's West End for an extended five-month run, becoming a surprise hit of 2003.

Now the sequel, A Weapons Inspector Calls, is sharing the limelight with its older sibling, and will soon finish a three month run. When asked about writing another war play, it is clear that Butcher, whilst nervous of being seen to be “cynically exploiting an established brand”, is still angry.

In fact he is possibly angrier than this time last year, as he confesses: “Back in January 2003 it was surmise. We all thought we knew what was going on, but there was still that chink of possibility that maybe some terrorist connection would be found, that weapons would be found and in someway they would be vindicated.

“In fact, as we suspected the whole thing is completely 'ballsed-up' and the deposing of Saddam’s regime and the so-called liberation of Iraq has only resulted in a state of lethal chaos.”

His suspicions were further confirmed when Claire Short visited “The Madness” on her first day of freedom after her resignation and told Butcher during the interval that everything in the play was correct. Butcher’s rage peaked, with the state visit of George Bush commenting that it all “leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.”

Infuriate

And so we now have a play in which Dan Styx, a weapons inspector, arrives at the Oval Office as Blair, Bush and their wives, celebrate the eve of the US elections. Styx proceeds to infuriate Rumsfeld, Schwarzenegger and friends by accusing the leaders of war crimes, duplicity and arrogance.

It is not the kind of play we have come to expect from Christians and
Butcher admits that he has been walking a tightrope. He complains that Christianity does not encourage raging against the machine, but prefers a more sedate conformity.

This is of huge concern to Butcher:“The history of the church is one of conformity and adaptation to political authority to the point of corruption. Then there is a seismic revolution and Christianity rediscovers its authentic roots and then gradually it starts conform again.”

Butcher’s faith is integral to his writing. He says that he "offers up
each project to God in the knowledge that my efforts are flawed and
tarnished, by vanity, ignorance, prejudice and all of the short comings of which one is only too aware.

"God is a transformative and dynamic power in the world and that however imperfect such offerings may be, He is able to catch them up and bring out of them, more than we can ever ask or conceive.”

Regular Greenbelt visitors will remember Butcher's 'Passion' which was performed at the festival seven years ago. He has also starred as the lead in Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

Rights

He doesn’t know how to put the world to rights if he were given the option by Messrs Bush and Blair, but would want to “hand over to a UN administration with a very tight timetable of elections and establishment of some sort of democratic system."

Butcher would also renege on all American construction contracts in Iraq, believing that the “Iraqis are perfectly capable of reconstructing their own country.”

More importantly though, would Butcher let George Dubya use his loo if he was caught short on walkabout? “Absolutely. I would invite him in for a cup of tea and have a straight talk with him. Then I would invite him to come and see the show.”

A Weapons Inspector Calls is showing until February 28 at the Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF. The box office number is 020 7609 1800, or you can visit its website at www.pleasance.co.uk






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