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Steven Berkoff to play Saddam Hussein in Anthony Horowitz-penned comedy - The Guardian

He has built a five-decade career on portraying the worst in humanity, both in film and on stage.

Now Steven Berkoff is add to his portfolio of villains by playing one of the most loathed figures in modern history - Saddam Hussein.

Related: Steven Berkoff on the magic and music of A Midsummer Night's Dream

The 78-year-old actor and playwright will play the Iraqi dictator on stage in Anthony Horowitz's new political satire, Dinner with Saddam, which looks at the circumstances around the 2003 invasion of Iraq through the lens of comedy.

The play will make its debut at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London in September and focus on the true-life events of a family in Baghdad having dinner on the eve of the British and American invasion, when Saddam turned up at the door.

Berkoff, best known for playing villains including General Orlov in Octopussy and Lt Colonel Podovsky in Rambo II, called the play the "best written political satire I have read in 30 years" and said he had jumped at the opportunity to play the dictator.

"No matter how evil a character is, if it is well written it makes you examine them with much more awareness and much more insight," said Berkoff.

Related: Tony Blair could face trial over 'illegal' Iraq war, says Jeremy Corbyn

"Before this play I loathed the man, but Anthony Horowitz opens up the whole regime and the political system and all the tricks that were played to such an extent that you have have a much wider field of vision.

"Although you hate him, you find him a fascinating character. As soon as I read it, this play astounded me and it will really wake people up to all the shenanigans that were going on back then."

Despite the comedic element to the play, Berkoff said there was no danger of him portraying Saddam as a likable character, though he also said he would not play him as a comical, two-dimensional villain.

Berkoff said: "This play is partly comic, it is partly political satire and it also contains some suggestions of brutality - I don't think it makes him become likable but it will make him become more understood and that is so important.

"He is a villain, of course, but I won't play him as a villain outright - I will play him as a general who is proud of what he's done. But at the same he could not have achieved what he did without making tough decisions and in a way that http://scottygotanofficejob.com gives the play its colour."

Having previously played Adolf Hitler in the 1980s TV series War and Remembrance, Berkoff said he would happily keep making his way through playing all the powerful dictators of the 20th century.

"Oh that would be wonderful," he said. "They are fascinating people and they are dynamic people so I think it is a point of privilege that I could even be considered for such a role."

Horowitz said he was thrilled by the casting of Berkoff and called it an "extraordinary idea".

He added: "Berkoff of all people, he is such an iconoclastic actor and well, he is just so good at playing bad guys and always has been.

"Although the play is a comedy, it has quite a serious intent. The situations can be funny but the character is not and I think Steven will bring real menace and real understanding.

"He's also a very political actor so I think he will bring a real understanding of evil and what makes the world such a bad place to the part."

Related: Iraq inquiry: Cameron to demand Chilcot name publication date

Horowitz is known both for his Alex Rider children's fiction and as the creator of TV series Foyle's War and Midsomer Murders.

He said his motivation to write the play came from wanting to keep the "fires of anger and indignation and outrage burning" over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"I've been somewhat absorbed in the Iraq war since it happened. It has very much been a force in my writing and I have the belief that we can't talk about it in a straightforward way any more because we get bored."

The war, he added, is still a huge scandal affecting our lives, yet people have become bored and disaffected by it.

"There are so many unanswered questions," he said. "Every day that passes without the Chilcot report coming out, it becomes more unbelievable that a mature democracy can behave in this way.

"So I wanted to reanimate it, to rekindle that anger around the whole invasion of Iraq and I decided that the way to do that was through comedy."
Admin · 162 views · Leave a comment
07 Aug 2015. 09:21:29 am

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