Word for word, Fringe takes on Chilcot Inquiry

A dozen blue volumes, each the size of an old phone directory, sit piled on a table inside a shed.

Friday, 12th August 2016, 1:21 pm
Updated Friday, 12th August 2016, 3:28 pm
Iraq Out Loud, Edinburgh Fringe

Like all major inquiries or reports, they were never really meant to be read. They were certainly not expected to read aloud from start to finish. The very thought would induce a state of apoplexy among senior civil servants in Whitehall.

The weighty books are the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, and they are being narrated from start to finish at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

All 12 volumes and 2.6 millions words will be read aloud in one continuous reading ... and anyone can take part.

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The venue is a garden shed next to a double decker bus - Bob’s BlundaBus - which is parked in South College Street right behind the museum, and next to the underpass that leads you to the Gilded Balloon and George Square Gardens.

Since Monday, the shed has hosted a stream of Fringe visitors, each toh read a section of the report, starting at page one, volume one, and simply going on around the clock until the task is done.

The hut has six seats, so up to six strangers get together on the hour, agree an order and then sit facing the reader.

As each allotted time slot comes to an end, you check the clock that hangs on the wall, move to stand next to them and follow their finger along the page, picking up on the word they finish on as they vacate the seat.

And so it rolls on every minute of every hour of every day until it’s done.

The performance has drawn huge support from a number of familiar faces and Fringe veterans as well as many visitors.

Omid Dijalili - who helped set it up -is among the famous names such as Reginald D Hunter, Sean Walsh and Ian Rankin who will be doing their 15-minute stint.

As we entered the hut, stand-up comedian Francesca Martinez came out having just completed her reading. If ever a shed needed a revolving door, it’s this one …

Before leaving you sign the margins of the book, marking where you finished, and ensuring your name is added to the rollcall of contributors, and, once outside, you are invited to pose for a photo so the organisers have a complete record of the event.

And taking part is fascinating.

Amid the jargon, the endless acronyms and cross references to departments and memos, instantly recognisable names jump out - Blair, Straw, Campbell, Bush - among a raft of faceless, anonymous Government officials from both sides of the Atlantic,

And amid the dry language of the inquiry, some lines on the issue of Iraq and its WMDs that never were, still make you want to stop and read them again

But this is a straight reading, word for word as Chilcot wrote it.

It’ll take as long as it takes to reach the final sentence of the final volume - and who gets that honour is entirely up for grabs.

Book a seat for a fiver, and it could be you.

>> To book tickets visit IraqOutLoud