Iraq Out & Loud is unlike any other Fringe show. First, the venue itself – a shed – is so minuscule that there’s hardly any room for spectators inside. Second, anyone can contribute to this performance: guests and the visiting public can take part in the uttering of the 2.6 million words and over 12 volumes of the published report. After all, we deserve to know the truth. The reading commenced at six in the evening on August 8th, and will be read around the clock, 24 hours a day for two weeks, until the very last syllable resonates across Edinburgh.
There was a serious buzz in the air and tensions were high during the lead up to the opening. Participants were chomping at the bit to get started. Film crews, reporters and journalists invaded every nook and cranny of the tiny space. Clocks hung on the exterior and interior of the garden shed to ensure the changeover of participants went seamlessly.
Only in Edinburgh at the Fringe could this happen – a hotchpotch of citizens operating out of a garden shed, exposing the truth and standing up for what is right. The aim of reading the report out loud is to draw attention and spark a serious discussion as to the legitimacy of the decision to go to war.
Without a doubt, comedians are the ideal candidates for reading this. Unafraid of any cultural boundaries and social constructs, they are able to tackle the situation head-on, devoid of consequences or fear. Remarkably, there is no comedy involved; it is quite the contrary. Unlike the art of a stereotypical skit or stand-up, the reading of the Chilcot Report must be done seriously and with humility.
When comedian and opening participant Arthur Smith emerged from the confines of the wooden shack, he revealed that the experience was unlike anything he’s ever done. With grammar and annunciation in mind, the aim was to read it accurately and frankly. Other comedians at the launch noted that the only funny thing about Iraq Out & Loud is that the war even happened in the first place. Oh, the irony.
Iraq Out & Loud is a truly unique spoken word performance that demands awareness, respect, and attention. It is powerful. Passers-by and people at the Fringe cannot ignore the words being spoken or the comedians, who for once appear in a more vulnerable and unfunny state of self. Consider it a call to action that deserves recognition. It may be held in the tiniest of venues, but what’s happening inside is truly immense.