A one-man, one hour play exploring the blight of extreme homophobia in modern day Iraq.
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Performed by Sam Philips, it tells the story of a Syrian refugee to Iraq whose hidden love affair with a man is torn apart through vigilante attacks. The poetic prose follow his mournful tale across borders, bomb-blasted towns and rejected homes.
The scenes vividly depict a couple's deep and requited love for one another, set against the harsh reality of an increasingly imposing, conservative middle east. Both men's tales are told by Philips, who delivers the whole one hour piece with enough clarity and emotion to move the most iron of audience members.
Though at first its monologue can seem challenging to follow, all is overcome in what is a feat of stage production. The fiery, flickering lighting places the audience in a situation hauntingly akin to scenes of Iraq we're used to seeing on television news. And while much of the play is static, the bed of 700 items of men's clothing Elegy is performed on develops its own harrowing reality, as it transpires each represents the homophobic murder of an Iraqi since the country's 2003 'liberation'.
Elegy brings to life statistics and tales of overseas tragedy we can all too easily become immune to. The eventual murder of Jay, the main character's lover, is told with striking precision and a sense of urgent political drama. The way in which this play portrays the anguish of gay men across a whole region, in barely an hour and through just one man, is nothing less than a gift of theatre.
It is without words that the play climaxes; as one-by-one images of real, tortured Iraqi gay men are projected. The lasting scenes of these images should, with any humanity, turn anybody against the injustices this play explores.
Elegy is the most intrusively powerful piece of theatre a western gay man can see this autumn - and see it they must.
Words: Benjamin Butterworth
Photo: Zbigniew Kotkiewicz
Elegy is at Theatre503 until 3 November, theatre503.com