What does The Trial of Jane Fonda, concerning the actor-activist’s controversial protests during the Vietnam War (in which the UK did not support our US allies), have to tell us about more recent conflicts in Syria and Iraq (in which we did)? Particularly in the wake of the Chilcot Report? (And was the timing of the play’s London premiere season in the wake of Chilcot’s publication purely accidental?)
After last night’s performance of The Trial of Jane Fonda at the Park Theatre, to discuss these and many other issues, I was joined by director Joe Harmston, leading lady (and, like Fonda, a Hollywood movie star and activist) Anne Archer, whose husband Terry Jastrow wrote the play, and the ensemble of male actors playing war veterans who interrogate Fonda at a private meeting in 1988: Martin Fisher, Mark Rose, Alex Gaumond, Ako Mitchell, Christien Anholt and Paul Herzberg.
In 1972, after widespread protesting in the US, Hollywood star Jane Fonda travelled to North Vietnam, where, guided by her VietCong hosts, she visits American prisoners of war and is photographed laughing and clapping, astride an anti-aircraft gun, the sole purpose of which is to shoot down American planes. Overnight, the soldiers’ sexy pin-up becomes ‘Hanoi Jane’; traitor to her country and betrayer of those very young men.
Did her motivation – to halt the slaughter of young lives, including 57,000 US soldiers and over three million Vietnamese – justify her means? Why can so many veterans – including Archer’s brother (who will finally see the play next week) and my 79-year-old father (who yesterday texted me to say he continues to hold Fonda “in utter contempt) – never forgive her?
These and many many more questions were discussed in a lively – and long, over an hour! – discussion after last night’s 95-minute performance. Have a listen to the unedited podcast below: due to the length, I have lopped off some of my usual housekeeping announcements at the beginning to go straight into speaking to director Joe Harmston ahead of the cast changing and joining us. Also below, a short video with myself and Joe, live-tweeting of the Q&A from @JaneFondaPlay, Q&A photos by Peter Jones and production shots by Keith Pattinson.
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) July 19, 2016