Taking no prisoners: Gibraltar

The shooting of three unarmed terrorists by the Special Air Service in 1988 is the backdrop for an analysis of the media, press coverage, spin and counter spin in Gibraltar. Currently playing downstairs at the Arcola Theatre, it is a minimalistic production that blends factual accounts and testimonies with fictional analysis.

It works best when it is a semi staged reading that mixes the mundane aspects of life on the island with its associations with crime, terrorism and other niceties. The history of The Troubles, or whether the killings were lawful are surprisingly less important here than looking at how a news story is given an angle and the search for an understanding about what really goes on.


Nick (George Irving, right), an old school journalist who avoids sensationalism in favour of trying to understand how things work in Gibraltar. After the shooting he finds himself surrounded by press. A young television reporter looking for a scoop suddenly finds that she has a star witness and a story that then becomes a sensation. Things get a little murky when questions are asked about the reliability of the witness and her connections to various other goings on in the region.


As an appreciation of misinformation and spin - the foundation of all news - it makes the piece worthwhile. Karina Fernandez (right) as Rosa the mysterious  star witness (loosely based on Carmen Proetta), provides the most interest in this piece with her sharp observations about life in Gibraltar and not feeling too English as she doesn't like bad food and flat shoes. It is these little touches that give the play a flavour of the time and place that now seems like a totally different world in the years since various peace agreements and new terrorist threats. Even if her motivation in testifying is left ambiguous.

The staging is simple with some old style cathode-ray televisions providing some simple projections to flag changes in pace and the television accounts of the time. I thought the video lines added a nice touch in recreating the feel of the 1980s when nothing was quite in high-definition and the daily news was delivered by a lady with big hair and shoulder pads who looked slightly blurry...

Perhaps everything is a little too simple to convey a sophisticated story but for those who did not live through the period, it might arouse interest to find out more about the history of it. The actual documentary inspired by the piece, Death On The Rock, is also available online. It is worth a cursory look to both clarify some of the facts of the piece, and to look back to a time when even commercial news was reported in a less sensationalist way... Even if it too, falls victim to misinformation and spin.

Gibraltar runs at the Arcola Theatre until 20 April. Anyone unfamiliar with the Arcola in Dalston should note that it is less than half an hour from central London. Take the Victoria Line to Highbury and Islington and then its a few stops east on the London Overground...


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