Horizontal Collaboration: love and war at the UN

There’s something about Horizontal Collaboration that feels ephemeral. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is presented as a minor accoutrement to writer David Leddy’s three-hour straight-to-smartphone film City of the Blind, which you are encouraged to download at a reduced rate at the beginning of the show. It might be the strange gimmicky format, whereby four different actors play the roles blind each night, reading the script from a laptop monitor as they go. Or it might be the fact that, in the end, it has very little to say about the issues it weighs in on.

Both play and film explore scandalous allegations that UN Peacekeepers have been sexually abusing women in conflict zones. The four actors play four UN lawyers, brought in at the last minute (in a clanging wink-nod to the audience) to read testimony they’ve never seen before at a top-secret tribunal. They sit in a line, with laptops and desk lamps in front of them, and go through the transcripts of interviews with the wife of a warlord, her family and servants – each actor taking on the role of a particular witness or interrogator.

The actors brought in on the night were superb; their eloquent, radio-play-like readings lending an air of formality to their officious characters. And Leddy’s script is foreboding and tense, etching in the audience’s minds some formidable characters negotiating a world of love, war, betrayal and barbarism. But given such rich source material, which completely smashes the image of UN footsoldiers as the white-knights of the world, it crumbles into easy ambivalence – at each turn the audience being reminded that they are hearing testimonies, not facts. The story which unfolds is detailed, sinewy and disquieting, but never goes beyond wallowing in the corruption it unearths.

Tom Slater is assistant editor at spiked.

Horizontal Collaboration is at Traverse until 24 August.

For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.

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