9 Circles is a psychological thriller and character study, exploring themes of soldiers’ personal responsibility for their wartime actions, and the immorality of war itself. It follows the character of Private Daniel Reeves (played by Joshua Collins) as he is discharged from the US army and tried in federal and military court for raping a fourteen-year-old girl, killing her and the rest of her family during the war in Iraq.
Along the way, he is confronted with himself and his world while meeting various people (an army psychiatrist, a minister in prison, a lawyer) in nine distinct stages on his journey. Full of quick dialogue and upsetting topics, this play is insistent and intense in its pacing. Returning themes, symbols, and figures of speech run through the script, creating a spiralling effect, where the audience is dragged through the nine circles of hell on Earth together with the main character. Gradually, he is picked apart and stripped of all his self-centred and cynical layers of mental protection, as he eventually has to face himself and the consequences of his actions.
The production is artfully crafted, with changes in scene setting and mood evoked through the clever and powerful use of limited props, costume changes, and commanding lighting and music.
Superb acting on all fronts, accompanied by side characters that are beautifully written to make them feel almost like archetypes, all work together to ultimately amplify the character journey of Private Reeves. The play also explores broader themes of immorality and the futility of war, which ultimately are not new and could be developed further in a more complex way. However, from an hour-long production, we perhaps cannot expect any groundbreaking and novel perspectives. But, as a study of a character’s psyche and mentality, it is done convincingly and with authentic humanity.
9 Circles is showing August 12-14 and 16-29, 13:30, Assembly George Square Studio 2.
Image credits: Mark Douet, provided to The Student as press material.