Sunday, October 2

9 Circles – Assembly George Square

To a comfortable lecture theatre of Edinburgh University, comes the uncomfortable truths of war, and war crimes, orchestrated under the very capable hands of Director, Guy Masterton.

The 9 circles, refers to the nine rings of Dantes inferno. The interesting set and lighting design features a five metre wide light ring on the floor and a similar large light ring behind the stage. Rings that the central character can never escape, perhaps representing the truth of the past and the punishment of the future.

The play is based on the true story of Texan Stephen Dale Green, a US army private who went on a rampage in Iraq, murdering an Iraqi family and raping then burning the 14 year old daughter. Playwright, Bill Cain, explores the justifications for Green’s actions through the nine circles of hell, firstly in Iraq, then to a cell awaiting trial a year later in the USA, and on through another seven circles to his final, inevitable, destination.

Reeves, played brilliantly by Joshua Collins, asks, quite reasonably, ‘ How can what happened over there, make me a criminal over here? Given that the US army turned Reeves into a killing machine, we are asked to consider, who ultimately is responsible: is it the recruiting Sergeant who lowered the bar to let the troubled individual Reeves in to make up numbers? Or is it the military training? Or the lack of psychological support at the front line? Or perhaps the blame should be laid right at the top, ‘George W. the other fuck up from Texas’?

Along the course of play we are asked to question war itself and nationhood. As Reeves intones, ‘whatever’s left after the killing stops – that’s the nation’.

After watching this raw and gritty and troubling production, I exit into the bright sunlight of mid-afternoon George Square, I feel altered, I need to be de-compressed. That speaks of good theatre in my book.

Masterton, a stalwart of the Edinburgh Fringe for over twenty years and Scotsman Fringe First winner on five previous occasions, must surely be in the running again with this masterpiece.

Running time – 60 mins. Playing until 29th August, more details and tickets can be found HERE.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 14th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★