‘Stuff Happens’ at the NAC
Photo courtesy of Andree Lanthier
Take yourself back to post 9/11, to the time of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ in Iraq and the cast of characters like Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Tony Blair, just to name a few. There have been so many in-between wars, justified for this or that political reason that you may need to remove the cobwebs from your memory to recall the exact stuff to which Stuff Happens refers. However, even after all this time (the play premiered in 2004 in London on September 10, almost 3 years exactly after 9/11), it all comes back quickly, thanks to playwright Sir David Hare’s brilliant writing. (Hare, a British playwright, has penned over 27 plays and written the screenplay for movies such as The Hours, Damage and The Reader.)
While not a documentary, Stuff Happens—now playing at the NAC—is based on real-life events. It offers a fascinating perspective on and insight into the people behind the decisions. For example, Bush may come across publicly as the bumbling politician but in reality, he was a calculating politician who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted.
Colin Powell was conflicted on what his President and colleagues wanted and voiced that opinion and did what he could, but in the end failed to alter their plans. You get a sense of his inner and outer conflicts. He was just powerless next to the ideological drive and determination of some of the other characters, like Rumsfeld and Cheney, who were fuelled, of course, by Bush.
The Bush administration’s attitude, intransigence and international bullying with individual leaders and the UN are also exemplified in interactions between Bush and Tony Blair. Were they factual? Hard to say, but they are believable.
With the benefit of the passage of time, we all know of the outcome of all of their efforts, and on that note, the play could have had some scenes shortened as it almost drags in parts. The play runs two hours and 45 minutes.
The set and use of video were fantastic and helped remind the audience of those events that occurred over a decade ago, but what truly stands out is, yet again, the acting. The talent in this company never disappoints. Stuart Hughes’ George Bush was so real, you could almost feel W on stage. Karen Robinson was brilliant as Rice, as was Andrew Moodie as Colin Powell. However, in reality, as has been the case with these actors, the whole cast was superb.
Interestingly, the play ends with a recently-added addendum with the current U.S. President talking of the next installment of the war on terror and with Prime Minister Harper right after preaching the virtues of fighting back. Plus ca change.