Preview by Jack Foley
AN INCISIVE black comedy about the war in Iraq, as seen through
the eyes of the Pentagon, opened at the Riverside Studios,
in Hammersmith, this week, amid much controversy.
Embedded has been written and directed by Oscar-winning
American actor, Tim Robbins, who has long been an outspoken critic
of the US-led war against terror, together with his wife, Susan
The play drew a mixed response from US critics and is now making
its London debut amid a similar ground-swell of opinion, prompting
the star of films such as Mystic
River and The Shawshank Redemption, to defend it on BBC Radio
4’s Today programme.
Embedded is all about the Pentagon's Prime Time War, ‘a
huge, stage-managed 24-hour news event and its attempts to turn
the media feeding-frenzy to its advantage’.
It delves behind-the-scenes, at the President's dark cabal of
advisors, as they orchestrate the spin and convince people that
it's right to tell a few 'noble lies'.
It comes to London following sell-out productions in Los Angeles
and New York.
Among those extolling its virtues, in America, were School
of Rock star, Jack Black, who referred to it as ‘ass
kicking good’, before adding that: "I've never seen
something so hilarious and so bone chillingly creepy at the same
While the San Francisco Chronicle
described it as ‘a savagely witty, very smart, very screwball
and ultimately very chilling comedy’.
But Embedded also drew its fair share of ‘terrible reviews’,
such as a comment from the Associated Press, that suggested ‘finding
genuine wit in Embedded is as difficult as finding weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq’.
Such comments prompted Robbins to retort, on the BBC: "I
don't believe people in the media take criticism very well. Some
are reviewing it as if it's a news programme instead of a satire."
Robbins maintains that he wrote the play to examine the policy
of ‘embedding’ news reporters with coalition troops
during the war, prompting him to conclude that ‘we have
lost our sense of what it is to have a free press in the US’.
Although he felt the English media was ‘behind’ America
in that respect, he does feel it is beginning to head in the same
direction, and claimed that he had ‘witnessed the kind of
intimidation that the Blair government was trying to impose upon
"That is not a healthy thing for any kind of free society
or democracy," he added.
Returning to the criticism surrounding the play, however, he
also highlighted the fact that it played to packed audiences in
both LA and New York, for the duration of its eight-month run
- a feat which could well be repeated during its Hammersmith run.
The play runs until Saturday, October 23, in Studio 2, with performances
each evening at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £25 (£18 concs),
and there are also performances, on Saturdays, at 6pm and 8.45pm,
and on Sundays, from 6pm.
For those who don’t make the stage version, Robbins has
confirmed that a movie version of the play has been filmed, to
be screened at next year's Venice Film Festival.