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REVIEW: The Next War

Elizabeth Roberts — August 1984

Written by Jan Hartman CBC Radio Sunday Matinee August 5, 1984
Pacific – 1:05 pm
Mountain – 2:05 pm
Central – 3:05 pm
Eastern – 4:05 pm
Atlantic – 5:05 pm
Newfoundland – 5:35 pm

It is not the bang, but the whimper of isolate mankind in the treatment of nuclear war which will be brought to us on CBC radio on Sunday August 5th. American playwright Jan Hartman has written a script to fire our imaginations, not with the drama of nuclear war in which the survivors go nobly on to create a better world, but with the senselessness of the pride which could cause such desolation.

The message of the play comes through devastatingly, not in the predictable rhetoric of the opposing sides, nor in the ever more disorganized weather/radiation reports, but in the plaintive cry of a despairing survivor, “Can anyone hear me?” It becomes apparent that this is the essence both of the play and of the peace movement. How does anyone get the world to listen, to fInd a different direction while that is still possible.

It is the destiny of prophets that no one listens. Jan Hartman is saying, just as Jeremiah did many years ago, “Hear now this, a foolish people and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears and hear not.

The cast (24 actors from Edmonton) plays many roles and accents, from the American president to newscasters in New Zealand. The voices of the survivors carry shock, panic, grief, isolation and numbness. ‘

Hartman’s inspiration for the documentary-style drama was Orson Wells’ well-known 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds (by H.G. Wells) which was presented in such a fashion that many listeners believed that they were listening to fact and not fiction.

The Next War will be followed both in Canada and the U.S. by a special edition of Cross Country Checkup called Cross Continent Checkup. The topic will be a discussion on nuclear disarmament and is hosted by Harry Elton in Ottawa.