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Multiple Casualty Incident

  • Theatre, Drama
  • Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Multiple Casualty Incident, Yard Theatre, 2024
Photo: Marc Brenner

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Four aid workers start to lose themselves during training in this clever drama from Sami Ibrahim

British playwright Sami Ibrahim’s 2022 play ‘two Palestinians go dogging’, was a divisive one. Some praised the experimental dark comedy, set in Palestine in the year 2043. Others didn’t really know what was going on. But critics echoed that, no matter what, this unrelenting show stayed with you.

Ibrahim’s follow-up, ‘Multiple Casualty Incident’, is just as unforgettable. In Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s production, we’re thrown in with a group of employees at a medical aid charity who are in the second week of training before entering an area destroyed by war. Palestine isn’t mentioned by name, but after six months of stories from Gaza, it’s hard not to think of it.

On stage: four figures, in what appears to be an unused office. It’s a matter of weeks until they fly across the world, and they need to be prepared. ‘We’re not political, but we do have a duty of care,’ group leader Nicki (Mariah Louca) warns. So they role play, assigning themselves as medical professionals and ‘primary actors’. Morals are easy to have in a philosophical debate, but how would they actually behave in these real-life real-life trolley problems?

It might not sound like a laugh a minute, but there’s a lot of levity in Ibrahim’s script. The characters giggle in the room too, then unconvincingly caveat: ‘Sorry, that’s bad’. Among the trainees, the two doctors rub each other the wrong way. Sarah (Rosa Robson) is forthright and snarky, prone to the exact kind of ‘Guardian moral bollocks’ that Dan (Peter Corboy) hates. And then there’s brooding nurse Khaled (Luca Kamleh Chapman, who also starred in ‘two Palestinians…’), the youngest of the three, who is grieving the loss of his father.

There was another member of the group, the mysterious Lisa whose ghost is felt by the one empty chair, always on the stage. ‘Maybe she couldn’t hack week two,’ Sarah scoffs, unimpressed.

The action plays out in two realms, separated by short segments where the lights drop and electronic music pulses. In the real world, Sarah and Khaled flirt over a dry meal deal sandwich, the former deciding to overlook the complex power dynamics between them. Khaled is eight years her junior; he’s also the only member of the team who’s not white.

The love birds keep returning to one scenario in class: he is refugee Ali, while she’s Laura, a senior doctor. When she accidentally calls him Ali outside of training, and he admits he kind of likes it, the boundaries of the real and imaginary worlds blur, and the audience squirms in their seats. As Ibrahim’s script oscillates between the politics of war and classroom flirting, Woodcock-Stewart’s direction only amplifies that sense of unease. Robson’s sharply raised eyebrow and Kamleh Chapman’s wide-eyed stare convey one dynamic, but in seconds they’ve switched, so it’s never quite clear who’s doing the yearning.

In ‘Multiple Casualty Incident’, it’s all about the facial expressions. During the roleplay scenes, the actors point video cameras in each other’s faces, relaying the footage live onto two screens on stage. Video designer Andrew Crofts’s impressive operation never feels like a gimmick. The cameras add depth, allowing Woodcock-Stewart to play with lights, shadows and sightlines, and only adding to the sense that what’s going on in these rooms is not for public consumption.

Everyone gets to be both camera operator and subject. Nicki and Dan, while fleshed-out as characters, fade into the background slightly around Khaled and Sarah’s intoxicating act. By the play’s lengthy, video-heavy climax, the central pair have lost all sense of themselves. The audience too, is struggling to piece things together, but when what’s actually going on is revealed, the impact is astonishing. It’s true; you won’t be forgetting this play anytime soon.

Written by
Isobel Lewis


Yard Theatre
Unit 2A
Queens Yard
E9 5EN
Tube: Hackney Wick
£15-£31. Runs 2hr 25min

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