Theatre | A timeless tale of war

CONFLICT: Lachlan Fairhall (l), Amy Vee and Olivia Jubb explore the nature of war and humanity in Ajax in Iraq. Picture: Amy Morris
CONFLICT: Lachlan Fairhall (l), Amy Vee and Olivia Jubb explore the nature of war and humanity in Ajax in Iraq. Picture: Amy Morris

AMERICAN writer and actor Ellen McLaughlin became so concerned about the way her country’s soldiers fighting in Iraq were treated by those commanding them she put together a play in 2011 looking at the matter.

The play, Ajax in Iraq, unites two stories of soldiers fighting in the Middle East more than 2500 years apart.

McLaughlin took characters and plot elements from Ajax, written by Greek playwright Sophocles in the 5th century BC, and interlinks the classical story with present day incidents in Iraq.

The current events are largely drawn from interviews she had with soldiers, male and female, who had served in Iraq. And the supportive reactions to the play of former and ongoing military personnel involved in the Iraq conflict have shown that the story is indeed timeless.

Knock and Run Theatre, a Newcastle company which focuses on plays dealing with contemporary issues, is staging Ajax in Iraq at the Tantrum Studio, 101 City Road, Merewether, nightly at 8pm from Thursday, September 5, to Sunday, September 9.

A mix of 12 established and rising actors is headed by director James Chapman.

The main characters are Ajax, the soldier from the classic Greek drama, played by Lachlan Fairhall, A.J. a present-day woman soldier played by Olivia Jubb, and Athena, the Greek goddess of war in ancient times, portrayed by Amy Vee.

The other characters are performed by Belinda Hodgson, Matt Heys, Keltan O’Shea, Milly Lambert, Roger Ly, Marissa Saroca, Alexandra Rose, Angela McKeown and Troy Bull, most playing multiple characters and chorus members, swiftly changing costumes.

Amy Vee will be onstage for the unbroken 90-minute running time, with Athena as the narrator who links the stories. She notes that this Athena is very manipulative and creates situations for her own entertainment.    

Olivia Jubb points to A.J. as being the contemporary equivalent of Ajax, renowned for her military skills, but exploited by her squadron’s sergeant. And that is certainly the case, as he forces her to have sex with him.

Lachlan Fairhall’s astute Ajax in the original Greek play is likewise passed over for leadership, with the commanders promoting his rival, Odysseus, instead. As Fairhall says, he has always been in the shadow of someone else.

Ajax in Iraq has brief appearances by some very interesting characters. One is Gertrude Bell, an early 20th century British writer and political officer who travelled widely around the Middle East and played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern Iraq.

The show is recommended for adults only. Tickets are $30 from stickytickets.com.au