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This article is taken from PN Review 268, Volume 49 Number 2, November - December 2022.

Sand City in the Rain Horatio Morpurgo
Mother and daughter spend most of Put the Rubbish Out, Sasha talking to or about their deceased husband/father, who often appears on stage with them. A career soldier who died from heart failure, he is here now because of a ‘sixth mobilisation’, in which even the dead are being called up. Under the terms of this mobilisation, however, those recruited can only report for duty with the permission of loved ones.

As they talk the past over with their spectral visitor, through this grieving and recalling, they try to envisage a future. What boundary between an inner life and the outer world survives the experience of war? In any case, no, he does not have their permission. They can’t afford another uniform. Or another funeral.

The playwright, Natal’ya Vorozhbit, is from Donetsk. Her play is set during the earlier phase of the war, from 2014, but if it ought to feel out of date, it doesn’t. It is witness of another, more durable kind than reportage. London’s Finborough Theatre is small but it was full the night we were there. I for one emerged from it asking why had I been checking my phone for six months – or why are we, rather, in the mass, so ready to prioritise reportage over other forms of witness?


Travellers to Ukraine are warned not to take photographs anywhere near government buildings, military installations or border infrastructure, because of the ‘targeting information’ such images can contain. Self-consciousness about pointing your phone at things can spread in ...

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