Photo credit: http://londoncalling.com/events/collaborators
Photo credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/nov/02/collaborators-review
I have now seen Collaborators twice - once at the National Theatre and once in the cinema (the Brixton Ritzy).
I have concluded that it will be impossible for me to write a proper theatre review of Collaborators; I can only write a very personal reaction to the piece, which is exactly what follows.
As a young person I was definitely a Marxist/Communist - the Communist Manifesto was my Bible, and I fervently believed in the equality of men, common ownership, an equal distribution of wealth, and the abolition of the rich/poor divide. I idolised the Soviet Union, was desperate to visit Russia and see Moscow, and was convinced that the Soviet Union represented the brave new world that I wanted to be a part of.
Then I started to find out what life in Communist Russia was really like for ordinary people. It was hard and cruel. There were food shortages. People were hungry. There were long queues for basic food stuffs and necessities, forget about luxuries. They did not have the material goods and possessions that we took for granted in the West. Compared to my life in the West, life in the Soviet Union was very harsh.
Then I read Orwell's Animal Farm and it appalled me - it was also a revelation. The idea that you could stage a Revolution, take back the farm, seize control, but then, over time, things would revert to what they were like before the Revolution because it was human (animal?) nature to abuse power and power corrupts. Far from making things better, the Revolution might actually result in a state of affairs worse than the one you started off with, that you had been so desperate to, and had fought so hard to, change.
Like the Iranian film "Goodbye" which I was lucky enough to see as part of the London Film Festival, what Collaborators drives home to me is what it is like living in a climate of fear, under a tyrant and a dictator. What it is like not being able to say what you think and not being able to write freely. Living under a regime where, as a writer, you could be "banned" and your works destroyed and branded as subversive, meaning no one is permitted to read your writing. Living under a regime where you fear the knock on the door, and where you could be taken, imprisoned and even killed for no reason, other than you were expressing your thoughts in your writing. Living under a regime where people just go missing and never come back.
I will be honest. I was born and brought up in England, and I have only ever lived in England, and so I have absolutely no conception what living under such a regime would be like, or how it would make me feel. I hope that I never have to live under that sort of regime, in fear of my own life and fearing for the lives of my family and friends.
What I wanted to say was this, and it is addressed to a lot of people in Britain who take our freedoms for granted, and actually abuse them in a myriad of ways. Please recognise and appreciate that you are very lucky to live in this country, in a Western liberal democracy. Many people across the world are not so lucky and have to live under oppressive regimes with no rights and no freedoms, in a climate of fear, in terror of their lives. Many of them come to England because they see it as a "sanctuary".
Please appreciate and value the many freedoms that we have as British subjects/citizens - principally freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. As a British subject/citizen I can think, say, do and go where I want; many people around the world cannot.
There endeth the sermon of Raks!
If you want to read a proper review of Collaborators follow the link below, which has links through to the reviews in the Telegraph, the Evening Standard and the Guardian: