FRINGE REVIEW: “9 Circles”

9 Circles – Assembly George Square Studios – Studio Two – 1.30pm

THE title is structured around the nine rings of Dante’s Inferno. Watching this gritty, hard hitting, and at times raw and troubling production leaves you rattled. That’s good theatre in my book.

The play is based on a US serviceman called Steve Dale Green who, while serving in Iraq, was party to the murder of an Iraqi family and the rape of their 14-year-old daughter. The playwright, Bill Cain, takes the protagonist, Private Reeves, through the nine circles to hell, firstly from Iraqi then to a holding cell awaiting trial and through the remaining seven rings to his final destination after conviction and subsequent execution.

Throughout the circles to hell, we are introduced to those that may want to assist Reeve in his understanding of what he has done and ultimately whether he is responsible for his actions or others. These characters range from a drug-prescribing psychiatrist, an alarmingly-troubled pastor, an army-appointed lawyer, and ultimately the defence and prosecution summations. It is not clear if these characters are actual or figments of Reeves fevered imagination. It’s all excellent stuff.

The script, as you would expect from Cain, is tight and each word has been used to maximum effect, there is no flab whatsoever. The acting is electric.

The questions raised in the play are clear but unanswerable. In training, we strip recruits to the baseness of humanity to make them effective in a war zone, so how we then we surprised that the same baseness can sometime result in utter undiluted brutality?

Who ultimately is responsible for that baseness? The recruiting sergeant that lowered the admission standards to let an already troubled individual, Reeves, sign up to fight as numbers need to be made up? Is it the training? The structure of the military? Are politicians responsible or the plebiscite that elects these politicians to positions of power?

There is no attempt to answer these questions and neither should there be, as they are questions with no clear answers. It is clear though that, until we find answers to those questions, there are no winners in war, not the Iraqi family, their daughter, and neither Reeves himself.

If this play leaves you debating, arguing, fulminating, or exhausted then it has done its job. For me it did all four – that’s a mark of wonderful drama.


Get the full details about the show here.

Plus, read more reviews on Scottish Field’s Fringe pages.