by Chris O'Connell - £9.99 Oberon Books (2008)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781840028812 | ISBN 10: 1840028815
'They're outside. Even if you write down what I tell you and you get the world to read the book, I don't think they'll be bothered. They're not frightened of the truth. What hope have we got?'
Chaotic, fast, and furious, ZERO is the new play from multi award-winning Theatre Absolute. Written by Chris O'Connell, the play is an explosive and anarchic stare at the ethics of torture, and the curse of censorship.
Twenty years from now, in the face of a feast of unabated nihilism, hundreds of camps have been built to torture and gain information at any cost, from those who aim to blow apart the rich pickings of a world that is wealthy beyond its dreams.
Alex, a translator at Camp Zero, seeks to tell the world of the brutal regime within the camps, and finds his life is suddenly on the line. Survival is paramount, death may be inevitable, but the truth has to be told.
"In ZERO, the audience are thrown into a nightmare world in which the relentless pursuit of profit, and the politics of envy sit centre stage. I wanted to write a play that imagines the next crisis that we as a human race will stumble into, (although it feels like it’s already there rubbing its hands in anticipation). But we choose to ignore it. No one wants to debate the downside of capitalism because there are so many benefits, yet it is slowly ripping the heart out of us, and reducing us to savages.
If people are angry now in 2008 at British Petroleum making 16 billion dollars annual profit, if we are angry at soaring food prices, if we feel stretched now, ZERO asks the audience to imagine a world 20, 30 years from now when the world’s assets have been stripped beyond recognition, and the pockets of the rich lined ever deeper. How will people feel, and how will they act?"
(Chris O'Connell, from his Preface to the script)
"Coventry playwright Chris O'Connell and his company Theatre Absolute built their reputation on raw, punchy dramas and their latest certainly continues that tradition.ZERO was on a Theatre Absolute UK tour from 29th September to 29th November 2008.
But whereas pieces like the Car trilogy dealt with alienated youth in contemporary society, Zero takes a wider world-view and reflects on where the war on terror might have taken us 20 years into the future. The war is now being waged on behalf of something called the Global Economic Alliance against an enemy identified only as 'the others'. With terrorist attacks at epidemic levels, scruples about the use of torture have evidently been further relaxed.
Two naive recruits turn up at a Guantanamo Bay style facility called Camp Zero. Tom is a private who has signed up for adventure in the time honoured tradition, while Alex, an officer, is here to act as an interpreter between prisoners and their interrogators. Their story is told retrospectively after they have gone on the run, apparently carrying a book in which Alex has documented the abuses, including murder disguised as suicide, he has witnessed. Written in O'Connell's familiar stripped-down style, integrated with an edgy electronic score by Andy Garbi, it has a visceral power which is counterbalanced by the odd and sometimes comic relationship of Tom and Alex.
Though fellow fugitives, they are far from being on the same wavelength. While Alex has been shocked out of his shallow pragmatism, Tom's instincts are far more self-centred, more inclined to swing towards the course of action which at one particular moment seems likeliest to restore things to normality.
This relationship, which draws exceptional performances from Daniel Hoffmann-Gill and Stephen Hudson, gives foreground depth to what might otherwise seem an overly-schematic play. And it is perhaps interesting, given current news events, that O'Connell seems to root his bleak future in globalisation and the reaction to its effects, rather than religious or political ideologies."
(Terry Grimley, Birmingham Post)
(Price & availability last checked: January 2019)
In booklists: Capitalism, Corporate Power & Globalisation, Censorship and Freedom of Speech, Play Texts, Theatre, Film, Politics and Activism, Torture, In categories: Anti-Capitalism & Global Inequality, Society, Welfare, Justice & the State, Media & Culture, Peace & Human Rights, Poetry & Writing, Music & Performing Arts, Politics & Philosophy,