This is the way the world ends: not with a whimper, but with a bang...
DONALD: There is an art to torture. At its most base it is merely concerned with extracting information. That part requires a surprising amount of sophistication and skill. It’s a delicate game of cat and mouse. There’s one person, the victim, I suppose you could say, but let’s call him ‘The Accused’, or ‘The Terrorist.’ Let’s call him Abdul. And then there’s the torturer. Let’s call him ‘The Defender of Freedom.’ ‘The Good Guy.’ Don. Abdul has some information about a planned atrocity. A deliberate attempt to inflict pain and suffering to a group of innocent people. Something designed to kill people who are oblivious, who are concerned with shopping and work and their children. Its intent is to remove them from these safe worlds and place them somewhere which has shards of broken glass and stunned looks and smoke and blood. Where there is a ringing in the ears, then screams, then sirens. That’s the world Abdul knows about. Don knows Abdul knows, and Don’s job is to find out what else Abdul knows.
ABDUL: You claim you’re more moral, more ethical. That you represent democracy and justice and hope and impartiality, but in the act of torturing a single person, you negate all you stand for.
8 people, 4 conversations, 1 ending.
The world is slowly coming apart. It's on our TV screens every night. The explosions, the torture and assinations, the pain and despair creep ever closer.
We sit in a room, we overhear certain things, we draw conclusions. Are the words we listen to merely taken out of context, or is there something far more sinister and more dangerous going on?
Omar Faissal, about 25.
Safia Ali, about 20.
Malcolm Richmond, about 50.
Emily Richmond, Malcolm's daughter, about 25.
Don Richmond, somehow connected to Malcolm.
Abdul Faissal, somehow connected to Omar.
Catherine Richmond, somehow connected to Emily.
Jameelah Ali, somehow connected to Safia.
Sixty minutes, no interval.
In November 2007 Concerto for Humans and Semtex was selected for script development funding as part of Illawarra Performing Arts Centre's 'Merrigong' Theatre Development Funding Initiative. In what became a co-production with ABC Radio National, group of 8 actors and Anna Messarit as director/ dramaturg took the time to explore and enhance the play's cultural elements and workshop its potential for staging. (See the pictures below).
The play was subsequently shortlisted for the 2007 Patrick White Playwrights' Award. The judges observed that 'the shortlisted plays represented an impressive body of work from ten outstanding playwrights.' Regarding the author of 'Concerto for Humans and Semtex' they noted that 'a writer with a firm grasp of structure and a sharp eye for our world's fears and complicities has penned a fascinating new play. Abuse, exploitation, charity, condescension and terror are presented here as the stocks-in-trade of our new world order - elegantly and provocatively packaged within a sound play structure.'
Concerto for Humans and Semtex was then published in the Australian Script Centre's Collection #7.
Recording of Concerto for Humans and Semtex took place in the Gwen Meredith Studio of ABC's Ultimo Complex in late January 2008, directed by Anna Messarit with audio engineering by Andrei Shabanov. It was performed by Lech Mackiewicz, Hazem Shammas, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Victoria Haralabidou, Nicole Stewart, Rebecca Havey, Tim Richards and Mishline Jammal. Music was by Oonagh Sharrad.
The first part of Concerto for Humans and Semtex was broadcast nationally as part of ABC Radio National's Airplay program in December 2008.
It was repeated as a Sydney Writers' Festival umbrella event and the other three parts streamed in May 2011.
As part of the ABC's reciprocal arrangements with overseas broadcasters as part of its Worldplay program, Concerto for Humans and Semtex was also broadcast overseas in the following locations:
BBC World Service, 7 June 2008
Radio New Zealand National, 22 June 2008
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio 1, 9 July and 16 July 2008 (in two parts)
RTE Radio 1 (Ireland), 17 August 2008
ABC Radio National, 29 December 2008
Ed Beals emailed:
…I just heard the radio drama Concerto for Humans and Semtex on CBC radio in Canada (actually I am currently in Croatia, listening to CBC on the internet). I've long been fascinated by the power of audio and radio. What I heard today has left me speechless and deeply affected. What an amazing piece of work… this is a perfect example of what radio can be. I found everything about the piece just pulled me in. The atmosphere, the acting, the subject material. Usually I find myself deconstructing things, or continuing my artwork as I listen, but not this time. I was swept up in the piece emotionally and didn't even think to continue working while it was on. When part one ended I couldn't believe I would have to wait to hear the second. I muttered something about the spell being broken. But the next day I was equally immersed. So congratulations on a fantastic piece of work. I assume it will win dozens of awards…
Jim from Montana in the US emailed:
My daughter is going to use a cutting from (your play) for high school speech competition. I not only love your work, it is a wonderful exploration of the mind set of many in this globally connect world.
Tess from Australia emailed:
I am still stunned by your play... driving home from Melbourne, I found myself pulling off the road as I could no longer concentrate on driving. I became part of this narrative as I found myself drawn deeper and deeper....brilliant writing and acting....
Bela from New Zealand Twittered:
Simon Luckhurst's Concerto for Humans and Semtex is playing on Radio New Zealand National: it's hauntingly good.
Rebecca Conroy from Sydney posted on FaceBook
"Hey Simon! Well done on the radio play - I listened to all four parts one after the other - compelling! Disturbing and beautiful... Nice one.
If you want to read this play please go to OzScript.
The following pictures were taken by Michael Bates at the 2007 Merrigong Theatre Development of Concerto for Humans and Semtex, except the last one of the cast at the ABC recording.
Hazem Shammas in foreground, Ali Manesh and Mishline Jammal
IMB Theatre Stage
Mishline Jammal in foreground, Philip Hinton
Anne-Louise Rentall, Merrigong Theatre Program Coordinator
Nichole Stewart and Hazem Shammas
Simon Hinton, Merrigong Theatre Company Artistic Director
Hazem Shammas in foreground, Mishline Jammal
Discussion after the rehearsed reading
Mishline Jammal, Victoria Haralabidou, Ali Manesh
The full cast at the ABC Recording on 31 January 2008. From left to right: Lech Mackiewicz, Hazem Shammas, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Victoria Haralabidou, Nicole Stewart, Rebecca Havey, Tim Richards and Mishline Jammal.