Infidel by Roger Gregg

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Crazy Dog Audio Theatre, 2005, Radio Drama Revival, August-September 2012
What to make of Roger Gregg's four-part drama? The story of two brothers – Sir Hugh of Beauvais and Sir Philip of Beauvais – who are drawn into the chaos of the Fifth Crusade, where the Church’s political role has distorted its religious role. It is a world where the other is the infidel, the forsaken, and sympathizing with the other side is seeing as being against God. Into this world comes Sir Hugh, a gentler knight than his brother, and his experiences will shape a drama all about the clash of cultures, church and state, and the nature of war.
Already acclaimed after its original performance in 1991, and designed to provoke audiences about the significance of history - especially where inter-faith clashes are concerned, Infidel is a play of profound significance, especially in today's world.
Then why didn't I like it very much?  I think Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is to blame. This 2005 epic about inter-faith wars between Christians and Muslims was designed to stimulate understanding between cultures, but only succeeded in essentializing them.  The Muslims were portrayed as somehow deviant, speaking in funny voices and wearing peculiar clothes; their way of life, while interesting in itself, could never be shared by their Christian opponents.  The same also applied to Infidel, in my opinion: the Muslim character all spoke with funny accents, strongly reminiscent of Jose Ferrer as the Turkish Bey in Lawrence of Arabia.  I realize that this might seem unfair, even petty; but I do think that radio drama producers might think more carefully about asking their actors to speak in their normal voices, irrespective of the ethnic origins of the characters they portray.  Strange as it may seem, non-Anglo characters can speak really good RP English - witness the late Hollywood star Turhan Bey, who passed away recently.