dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Shining the spotlight on the reporters
What leads a person to make a living from reporting on war? What effect does watching daily horrors have on their psyche and their soul? How do they respond to photographing suffering? Can you ever walk away from war?
These questions and many more are posed by this 75 minute new song cycle premiered in The Door at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Created by composer Helen Chadwick and Olivier Award winning director Steven Hoggett, War Correspondents blends music, dance, poetry and story-telling in a kaleidoscope of images and impressions.
Many of the stories are based on real-life experiences as Helen and creative associate Miriam Nabarro spent years interviewing war reporters from across the globe. Between them, these correspondents had covered conflict in all its guises from Africa to the Middle East and Chechnya into Bosnia.
And the stories are not pretty. We hear of a reporter who meets a man who tried to kill him just the day before. Another who suffered post traumatic stress disorder after having a gun put to her head. Another who tells us that rather than becoming 'battle-hardened' he has become 'battle-softened' and over sensitive to others' pain.
The five performers – Helen Chadwick, Rebecca Thorn, Michael Mears, Oliver Senton and James Lailey – swap and exhange roles and places, picking up and leaving these stories as unfinished as those we see on the television's news reports.
All the cast are fabulous harmonisers and very believable in the role of weary war correspondents.
Poetry comes from a range of sources including Chile's Pablo Neruda, Austrian Erich Fried and Iraqi Saadi Youssef whose Red Night is particularly effective as a litany of those to be remembered.
There are moments when the sand shifts so much that the message becomes too obscure with a couple of the scenes leaving me muddled. But in all there is plenty to mull over from this Helen Chadwick Song Theatre production.
There are no answers, only experiences and responses. The questions being posed here have been posed for decades by journalists, photographers, writers and commentators but they remain questions that should be asked if reporters, and we, are to retain our humanity and integrity when faced with war.