Alan Wilkins' epic for four actors kicks off in a public bathhouse, where Gregor, a Senator (Sean Campion), and Marcus, (Damian Lynch) an up-and-coming operator, await the arrival of Cato (Tony Guilfoyle). The sense of a Roman administration wearied to its uppers and in need of something more than bread and circuses to distract the populous is palpable. Carthage, defeated fifty years previously but now gradually regaining its mercantile edge, becomes the object of their power games.
This gruesome threesome are joined by Cato's nephew, David (Paul-James Corrigan), a would-be poet whose uncle wants to introduce him to the realities of political life. Wilkins' intelligent script picks its way deftly over the banalities through which power cloaks its real intentions. Gregor, Marcus and David become the orchestrators of Cato's campaign to retain leadership by means of an easy victory over Rome's already defeated foe. This is, but is also clearly not, the Third Punic War; parallels, however, are mercifully not directly drawn, and any equation of Carthage with Baghdad is left with the audience.
In some respects the most sympathetic conspirator, Gregor finds himself dispatched to Carthage after a botched seduction of Cato's nephew David, partly mirroring the real nature of the power games all the characters indulge in, and coming, in Cato's case, uncomfortably close to home. Carthage withstands an expensive and lengthy siege before the end game for Gregor arrives, and he pays the price for his inability to toe Cato's authoritarian line.
Wilkins' well-crafted work acutely demonstrates the ways in which interest operates in all of us, whether in terms of status, self-gratification or the exercise of power, and how this damages ourselves as well as others. Not a cosy evening in the theatre, 'Carthage Must be Destroyed' is nonetheless a very worthwhile one, which will repay chewing over afterward.
©Bill Dunlop, May 2007
- Published on EdinburghGuide.com