My trip to Al-Qaeda

I did not invent this brilliant title, it’s the name of a one-man show currently playing at the Culture Project in SoHo. Here is the New York Timesreview. Lawrence Wright, whose book The Looming Tower has generally been acclaimed as one of the notable US-published books of 2006, has turned his narrative history of Al-Qaeda into a theatrical piece of compelling and unnerving power.

Simi Linton and I attended a weekend matinee performance as part of our research into how we might adapt her memoir to the stage. But before we could settle in for the show, we had to deal with a rude man who accused us of sitting in the wrong seats. He and his friend literally appeared out of nowhere and said, “You’re in the wrong seats.” Neither of them realised that (a) Simi had her own seat at the end of the row (her power wheelchair), and (b) I was sitting on a single chair at her left, physically separate from the rest of the row. )Often theatres have a pair of seats they remove in order to accommodate a wheelchair user and his or her companion.) It soon emerged that the woman on my left was inadvertently sitting in the wrong seat – but did this guy apologise? Of course not. I did let him know he had been rude, though.

The show featured plenty of archival footage and photographs projected on a screen, although the stage itself was quite bare – a desk, a chair, a Persian carpet beneath it, and a pinboard full of post-it notes each with an Al-Qaeda name written upon it (the skeletal structure of the book that was to become The Looming Tower). Wright called Al-Qaeda “an engine that runs on the despair of the Muslim world”, whose main achievement has been to aid the corrosion of civil liberties in the US,¬†and to inculcate a culture of fear.

I wonder if this will get any performances in the 51st State?

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