One Turbulent Ambassador, Tony Blair and the Wheel of Life 17

One Turbulent Ambassador

Believe it or not, I haven’t actually seen One Turbulent Ambassador yet, largely because I am on the wrong continent. But there is a very interesting interview with Robin Soans about the play by the Cambridge academic Scott Antony in Exeunt.

I rather liked this judgement:

History is a strange and fickle creature,’ smiles Soans, ‘at the time of his demise Craig Murray was a figure of ridicule, and Tony Blair cast him out as a traitor. But he’s now a rector of a university and addresses student rallies and appears on television and talks really very intelligently, while anyone of discernment has no time for anything Tony Blair has to say at all. Virtually everything says he’s ludicrous. So much of what he said was duplicitous, and underhand, and not even approaching the truth. And that’s just seven or eight years and history has already done a volte face.

But some of it is a bit tough for me to read, like this:

The students and Jessica said I think you’re emphasising the heroic side of this man, rather than the shitty things he’s done to various people and the trail of misery he’s left in his wake.

But then as the great man himself said

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An’ foolish notion

I am on tenterhooks for some honest feedback. There are I think only three performances left. If you can catch one, please do leave your impressions here.

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17 thoughts on “One Turbulent Ambassador, Tony Blair and the Wheel of Life

  • M

    Craig, we went last night & have to say for a first play ive been to thouroughly enjoyed it. Acting was very good. Captures the book very well in a stunning theater.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq Association

    Having not seen the play I suspect Scott Anthony’s wide angled review as seen through his transparent lens fails to know the man Craig at all. Perhaps the play fails to reveal the heart-ache, the despair, the anguish and the pain that may indeed have prematurely closed the curtains on a classic exemplar of a higher consciousness, a perfect specimen of a better living.

  • Clark

    Craig, I doubt it’s fair to say that you’ve left a “trail of misery” in your wake. I know you split up from your former wife, but you seem to remain on good terms with your children from that marriage. If the breakup of a marriage constitutes a “trail of misery”, then it’s a fault that you share with a large proportion of the population.
    I wish that my parents had broken up. Their insistence on maintaining a failed relationship did me incalculable harm.

  • Mary

    ‘The play tells the story of Craig Murray, former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, whose spirited campaigning against torture and severe human rights abuses ran up against the Anglo-American need to sign up a regional ally in the ‘the war on terror’ and to wage war on Iraq. Murray’s refusal to kowtow to official policy saw his career with the Foreign Office end in official disgrace and public ridicule.
    ‘Look,’ explains Soans, ‘I don’t want to sound too agitprop about this. I know Robin Cook resigned and Claire Short resigned, and those gestures had a worth to them, but they didn’t put their complete necks on the line. Dr David Kelly [who Soans has played on stage in Jessica Swale’s production of The Palace of the End] and Craig Murray were the only two figures in the establishment who stood up and said “this is all lies.”’

    Spot on.

  • Abe Rene

    Thought you’d like to know that I’ve recommended it to my colleagues at work, and hope to see it myself before it closes, even if it means being a bit late getting back home.

  • David Halpin

    I doubt Soans has been in a maelstrom such as Craig was in. Directed by gold leafed liars with all the HMG nonsense and finding people being boiled alive after which the lobster corpses were taken back to mothers and wives. The best of us would lose our much vaunted compasses. The world is on the edge. I felt sorry to know that Craig left his wife and two children but I was not a Craig in stifling heat and aware of unimaginable cruelty which the axis wished to stifle. Craig’s act stands vast and well above the Lilliputian figures about him in ‘government’. Think of Hague if you can for a second.

  • Komodo

    Hague? What’s to think about? There’s nothing there but a digitally remastered mashup of Churchill’s favourite tropes.
    Good article on moral leprechaun Blair here:
    Senior media figures are of course uniquely placed to express a perennial crush. You may have noticed of late that the story of how poor Tony (Tony the “winner” don’t forget) was wrestled from office by the tyrannical Cyclops of the Gordon Brown machine is being re-sprinkled by commentators, conveniently overlooking the pragmatic political reality of 2006/07; that an incumbent PM with an almost 70% public disapproval rating may not be worth a punt.

    This broadly held view – that the individual most responsible for degrading the UK democratic covenant is Blair – is compounded by the well reported, platinum plated merry-go-round of his personal avarice: speeches to the titans of turbo-capitalism inside luxury compounds which turn him tens of millions in pay; the perma-tanned thick skin arrogance of a man who simply cannot ever say sorry, and the approving visits to gigantic tax havens such as the Cayman Islands that make all of our personal tax burdens higher and public services worse.
    Add in the support and advice sessions for dictators new and old including the savage Kazakhstan regime (Private Eye reported that his most recent session in this regard was in support of the new dictator of the Maldives, offered in luxurious surroundings during the Jubilee celebrations) and you have a national social noise reporting a foul taste in the mouth.

  • John Goss

    I can’t for a minute think of Hague, without thinking he comes from the area where all my exploited coalmining ancestors came from and where I spent my early years. Then I think of Atlantic Bridge and Hague’s shady deals to protect Israeli interests. I’d rather not think of Hague; not even for a second, David.
    As to the second quote from the play. Are you sure it does not refer to Tony Blair, Craig? That would fit! I guess the playwright is trying to get some kind of balance so as not to seem too obsequious to the plot. Much prefer the summary Mary found. Good luck with the next three. And if you live in London make sure you get there. A bit too far for me. I’m shattered from driving up to Harrogate yesterday. Bring it to Birmingham.

  • Komodo

    When Hague speaks, I have trouble working out which end the noise is coming from.

  • Jon

    Hi Clark, trust you’re well.
    You’re right about two things. Firstly that we all have caused some misery once or twice in our lives – the trick, I suppose, is to try to create more happiness than harm.
    Second, the inviolability of marriage is a religious device, born of Puritanism and Victorianism, to keep people suitably unhappy; all the better for the social control of the Church, I suppose. This seems to have merged with our thinking now regardless of our religious belief. My parents were the same – should have divorced – but the guilt of doing so would have been too much for them to bear.

  • Julian (Toff)

    Dear Craig,
    I went to the play last night and really enjoyed it. It was well acted and a good precis of the book. Last saw you now 35 years ago. You were inspirational as a teenager and have become a great man, if there is any justice in the world you will come to predominance again for the good of us all. I am proud to have spent time with you and as a Sheringham Young Liberal remember fondly attending conferences and going on the demos you organised at Lakenheath, PR in Peterborough, painting Mr Hain’s election bus and the ‘Books not Bombs’ demo at the CCF armyist parade on the lawn at Paston. You’ve achieved such a lot since then. Keep up the good work, don’t let them put you off!
    Best wishes to Celia, Stuart and your mum.
    Be well Toff

  • craig Post author


    Many thanks. So many happy memories. It is really, really good to hear from you again.

  • TK

    It was a thrilling and exhilarating experience. I saw the play was about a man who pushed the axle of the turning point of the history that’s struggling to give birth to a new era. What appears as the death throes is in fact the labour pains. From Sufi mysticism through John of the Cross, T.S. Elliot and Harold Pinter, and here we are in the post modern setting, just like eternal recurrence, we are seeing the same old dreadful human tragedy, pain and despair, but all that are ultimately subsumed into a glimmer of hope.
    Wish the actress who played Nadira had bigger breast, because, in my view, she is emblematic of the emerging civilization whose essence can be summarised as sanctification of body (physicality, sensuality, eros=life) as opposed to the enervated, necrophiliac outgoing civilization. Sensual intelligence is the beacon that flickers in the distance.
    Dance as benediction. Blessing of the earth, earthiness and earthliness must be the central feature of the new civilization. Young generation know this intuitively. Through the Crusades, medieval Europe learnt from Islam, not only astronomy and algebra but also life affirming, sacred sensuality which enabled the European renaissance to take root.
    War on terror is basically Herod’s fear of the new bone king (whose kingdom is not territorial).

  • Ken

    It’s me again.
    Writing stageplay reviews isn’t really my thing, but here goes.
    Firstly, I saw the play from the point of view of having read this blog for many years and having read one and a half of your books (still not finished Orangemen yet), attended the torture hearing in Portcullis Hse and your talk in the tent at St Pauls. So the story was well known to me.
    I found it very entertaining and it brought a huge touch of real life to your story, like being a retrospective fly-on-the-wall.
    I thought the interspersing of the ‘graphic nasty’ scenes and the spots of very funny humour was very well done.
    I wouldn’t know how to review any actor’s performance, but to me the acting was damn good. I think all those actors should go far.
    The theatre was perhaps a little less than half full but the applause at the end was pretty thunderous. It was universally enjoyed and appreciated.
    I could hear conversations around me that indicated many in the audience did not know your story at all.
    The only thing I’d add – the ending was OK but I thought the final act should have included something like a piece of your speech at Trafagar Square or at Portcullis Hse or something similar, maybe something like a ‘newsreel piece’ on screen, to show that your life continues to have aspects of drama and/or activism after the end of the play’s story. To me, as it stood, the ending seemed to give the impression that you’ve curled up and retired to a simple domestic life, (or something like that).
    There was a scene about campaigning in Blackburn but it didn’t seem to be positioned to show that politics and activism continue to feature in your life.
    Keep up the Blog!

  • Abe Rene

    Saw it last night, great stuff. The theatre was nearly packed. Henry Shields and Loren O’Brien were very credible as Craig and Nadira. It was like seeing “Murder in Samarkand” on stage! The Lyric Theatre deserved the small donation they encouraged at the end (in no way aggressively), though the tickets were free.

  • Huw

    I saw the play last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The cast were all very good, the production was first-class and the play itself was generally excellent.

    The subplot about your not-quite-so-praiseworthy private life should have been introduced earlier, perhaps – up to the scene where you first met Nadira you were presented pretty much as a wholly admirable chap and in the context of the drama it was a bit disconcerting suddenly to ‘discover’ that you frequented lap-dancing clubs, and not out of humanitarian concern.

    There were a lot of nice touches, like the US ambassador mispronouncing your name. Both he and the Jays et al were nicely portrayed as oh-so-sophisticated people without principles. I’d like to think that you (in the play) were right to say that the Brit in the street would be appalled by what their government was sanctioning in their name, though I’m not sure you’re right. Not that our hearts aren’t (mostly) in the right place, but we are subjected to so much propaganda, both obvious and subtle, that tells us: Look, it’s us or Them!

  • Jason M Smith

    I saw the play on the day that you attended. I was pleased to see it on its final performance of the run. I spoke to Ann briefly afterwards which I enjoyed; you were busy at the time.
    Firstly, I thought the performance of the actors was very good. They set an extremely high standard and the production was well paced and clever in its set and production. I may be a little biased as Henry is a good friend but I must say he was outstanding. Wow, what a heavyweight script he had to work with.
    The story was compelling. I have to admit to knowing little of the content in advance, and almost ashamed not to have afterwards. I have subsequently read up since. I aim to pick a copy of the book to fill in the gaps. I feel any comments I could offer on the events within the narrative at this time would only seem a little benign…only to say I’m sickened, frustrated and appalled by the attitudes of those in power. The hipocricy is overwhelming!!
    I enjoyed the play emmensly and intend to learn more as a cocequence of it.

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