Stuff Happens at the National Theatre
After more than a decade, David Hare’s Stuff Happens returned to the National Theatre, where it was first performed in 2004. An historical play, it details the beginning of the Bush presidency, the fallout from the 2001 terrorist attacks and the United States and Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war. The drama sheds light on this country’s controversial decision to invade Iraq and coincides with the publication of the long-awaited report by Sir John Chilcot, a culmination of a seven-year inquiry on the lead-up to the war.
On a bare stage, 21 actors were aligned in a row of chairs, portraying 65 different roles between them. The lack of scenery and props allowed for complete focus on the language and the dominance of the actors reading their scripts. Alex Jennings, cast as George Bush, was a tour de force: not only did he succeed in his accent and body language, but also through evoking the way in which Bush portrayed himself to the public as a steadfast, religious Texan.
The sheer brilliance of Stuff Happens lies in its lack of partiality; it is unbiased in showing the contrasting viewpoints of the war. Hare isn’t telling the audience new information, nor is he persuading them to think a certain way. He offers two sides, giving a melange of viewpoints that demonstrate why some supported the war in Iraq and others were fiercely against it.
Hare makes note that not a single world of the play has been altered since its closing in New York ten years ago. With both past and recent political events leaving many British people perplexed and isolated, the performance of Stuff Happens alongside the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry offers answers, as well as the opportunity to finally scrutinise what has happened within the administration. With its serious subject matter, presented through satirical humour, the only negative thing is that Stuff Happens does not have a longer run.
Photo: Atri Banerjee
A public reading of Stuff Happens was on at the National Theatre for one night only on 6th July 2016.