Journalists, investigative journalist in particular, are, we are happy to believe, seekers of truth. They dig deep and are unafraid to ask questions. But truth is a subjective business and, as we all know, one man’s truth is another man’s lie. The truth is usually dependent on your angle of view.
Henry Naylor’s play explores this perspective and the pitfalls of preconception.
Carter is a young journalist charged by her editor to drum up public support for the government’s decision to strip “ISIS Bride” Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship. The editor is not one, it seems, to let the truth get in the way of a good story and Carter relishes her task as she has some personal involvement, having watched another journalist, a friend and colleague, beheaded in Syria on social media. But Carter thinks there could be more to the story that just the Shamima Begum, Fuck Off headline that her editor is proposing so she goes off to dig deeper to get some background. However, she is aiming to subjectively substantiate her story, not seeking the truth.
She meets up with the sinister and menacing Kane, a former army captain who fought in the Iraq war and has been convicted of war crimes. He runs a military memorabilia shop selling everything from chainmail to Nazi regalia – but, conspicuous by its absence, nothing from the Iraq conflict. Through talking to him and to the father of another Iraq veteran who has recently killed himself, Carter gets a broader picture of the horrors of war and realises that nothing is simple, nothing is black and nothing white.
She files her story – but is it the one her editor wants and is expecting? That sorted, Carter is ready for her next assignment. Journalists are always moving on, instantly shedding the skin of the previous assignment before getting immersed in the next. There is always more truth to be found, no matter who it belongs to, who is providing it or, more importantly, how true it is.
Hot from the Edinburgh Fringe, Henry Naylor himself plays the rather scary Kane and Caitlin Thorburn gives a convincing performance as the journalist in this, the fifth stand-alone play in Naylor’s Arabian Nightmares series which explores east/west relationships post 9/11. The Nights is powerful stuff, well presented and recommended – if you can get a ticket. Michael Hasted 5th October 2019