Review: Shrapnel (Arcola Theatre) JohnnyFox March 16, 2015 Reviews, Theatre ‘My name is Savas Encü. This is my uncle Hüsnü. We are diesel smugglers, we have no weapons’ – fourteen year-old Savas recites the mantra which has served as laissez-passer across the rugged mountain border between Iraq and Turkey a hundred times before … … but one cold winter night in December 2011, thanks to conflicting intelligence between the Turkish army and an American drone overflying the area, their mule train is mistaken for a PKK terrorist unit, and twenty-eight members of Savas’ family are bombed and burned alive in their diesel pyre. Impassioned, authentic and disturbing: this painful story is set, in Anders Lustgarten’s purposefully fragmented script, against a background of Turkish and international politics, the arms trade and pressures of rolling news media. Forceful graphics and video by Richard Williamson vividly illuminate the wider world, none better than the scene where the armaments manufacturer reports to its shareholders. Impressive doubling and trebling of roles means the six-strong cast work hard to deliver some searingly credible performances, even if some clarity is lost to deliberately heavy accents and the heartbreakingly touching moments, like the teenage boy saving desperately for his laptop and killed before he’s paid half the instalments, are planted in your path like mines in a Kurdish cornfield. Often you go to the Arcola to be thoroughly entertained, some times you go to learn and to have your awareness tested like this. It’s encouraging that the play is performed with Turkish surtitles and hopefully will engage the substantial Turkish and Cypriot communities around Dalston. It’s an ensemble piece, but the superb Karina Fernandez capably assumes all the female roles from ambitious award-seeking journalist to heartbroken mother, and both Aslam Percival Husain as Hüsnü and Josef Altin (Ekrem in David Cronenberg’s thrilling Eastern Promises) as Savas are graphically convincing. If you know the history or the politics, you’ll be fascinated: if you don’t, it will open your eyes.