Negative Signs of Progress: There and Somewhere by Dan Rebellato

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 26-27 February 2013
Tonally speaking, the last two plays in Rebellato's trilogy could not have been more dissimilar.  There was a comedy set in the office of an NGO in Europe, in which two junior strategists (Fenella Woolgar, Joseph Kloska) grappled with a fictional situation in which one of their colleagues had been kidnapped and they had to deal on the telephone with the kidnapper.  Frank (Steffan Rhodri) was their boss, initiating the role-plays and commenting on his subordinates' performance.  Somewhere shifted the action to an unidentified hideout somewhere in Syria, where Eleanor (Frances Grey) - the woman whose plight had been discussed in Here and There - had an intense verbal sparring match with her captor Hussein al-Zawiya (Mido Hamada).
Despite the difference in treatment, both plays had a serious point to them; how do members of western cultures and organizations deal with the inhabitants of the so-called 'Arab World,' when many of their views have been shaped by prejudice and half-truths?  Journalists might talk airily of the so-called 'Arab Spring' - but as al-Zawiya reminded Eleanor in Somewhere, this was a western-produced term, designed to reinforce the myth that countries in the Arab World had somehow progressed, once they had overthrown their regimes.  Moreover, it was clear - both from the strategists' role-plays, as well as Eleanor's responses to al-Alawiya - that westerners expected to be treated 'fairly' by right, even if they were not prepared to mete the same treatment out to the Arabs.  If an Arab lies, that's deceitful; if a westerner lies, that's socially and politically necessary to ensure their survival.
Rebellato's plays emphasized the reluctance of members of different races to understand one another, and how that reluctance has prevented any meaningful attempts at negotiation.  Despite what the media likes to tell us, no one - especially in the west  - seems either willing or able to step back and ask questions, rather than making (largely erroneous) assumptions about members of other cultures.
Dramatically speaking, the two plays were as enthralling as the first in the trilogy - reviewed elsewhere on Radio Drama Reviews.  I applaud everyone involved in the productions, especially director Polly Thomas.