9 Circles, Park Theatre, stage review: ‘A must-see for anyone interested in politics, war and social responsibility’

Joshua Collins (left) is ‘gripping’ in the lead role. Photograph: Mark Douet

The war in Ukraine has once again focused our attention on who is to blame for horrific atrocities that are committed in the context of war.

To what extent are human rights abuses in Bucha and elsewhere the fault of Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion? Or his officers, who oversee it? Or the individual soldiers who carry out heinous acts? Or Russian society at large that may perpetrate views of people from other countries as less worthy of respect?

Bill Cain’s play 9 Circles, making its European debut at the Park Theatre, takes up these questions in the context of the Iraq war.

The drama, directed by Guy Masterson, explores what Hannah Arendt called the ‘banality of evil’ – the accrual of seemingly mundane bureaucratic decisions that come together to create the conditions for a sociopathic soldier to commit war crimes.

Joshua Collins in the lead role of Private Daniel Reeves gives a gripping performance as a man struggling to come to terms with the concepts of guilt, justice, empathy and self-worth. Through his descent into the hell of criminal proceedings, we absorb the moral dilemmas of his situation.

This moving production is a must-see for those with an interest in politics, war, and everyday social responsibility.

9 Circles runs until 23 July at Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP.