The Body Of An American is an intense two-hander that repays the viewer’s commitment

22 Jan


The longer we live, the more ghosts we have to share head space with. In Dan O’Brien’s play, the main protagonists are brought together by their sense of being haunted.

Real-life war photographer Paul Watson feels ‘owned’ by the dead US soldier whose body he photographed as it was dragged through a conflict zone, while the no less real-life writer Dan O’Brien (a character in his own play) feels haunted by his own younger self.

O’Brien’s intense, garrulous, poetic two-hander is a highly self-referential affair. Although it touches on many topics, including mental health and the ethics of photojournalism, the play is mostly about its own creation. It’s also a prize-heavy affair: the script won the 2013 PEN Award and the Edward M Kennedy Prize, while Watson’s image garnered him a Pulitzer.

James Dacre’s imaginative, minimal staging turns the Gate auditorium into a kind of viewing tunnel. Spectators are seated…

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