by Pamela Carter.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 15 April 2014.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr; no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 April.
Separate parts constructively assembled.
Like its title, Pamela Carter’s play has resonances difficult to pin down. Artist Louise has moulded a scene of dead British soldiers in camouflage uniform in Helmand, Afghanistan. One at least, Kevin, nicknamed Princess by his fellow troopers, with their rough matey humour, was modelled from life, his facial wound at various times cosmetic and fatally real.
Now he’s away, Louise’s husband returns, her young son Jeff philosophically realising they’ll not be seeing Kevin (also her lover) again. Unrelated to anyone, but connected with the war is the young woman who, as Buddy or Budur will sell herself on Britain’s streets (the voices are English-accented, but the author’s Scottish) in a desperate poverty that translates to her Afghan equivalent around the battlefields.
The UK scenes form a reasonable, if very familiar triangle of adult relationships with a child tagging along. The young woman adds a thematically significant but dramatically enigmatic element. Importantly, this all works as counterpart to the scenes where the figures of Louise’s installation come to life, at first not realising they’re dead – and when they do, ‘living’ happily on, war becoming playtime.
Jeff swings the modelled limbs placed loose in his mother’s artwork; the soldiers enjoy kicking and biffing each other now it no longer hurts, capturing young soldiers’ boyish playfulness – the more responsible, if hardly older, sergeant is their only female.
Young Jeff’s still a lad, but Kevin freewheeling from his relationship with Louise into the army and Jeff’s father Ed returning to his family without explanation and bringing little of any role-model with him, represent a casual approach to responsibility.
A different angle on limited adult responsibility can be seen in Louise’s making an art-work of human suffering, but that’s a matter of taste rather than intention – it could be starting from a sincere concern over war, however limited the experience behind it: an awed artist trying to shock.
The Helmand scenes, however abstract their setting, carry a scorching sense of desert heat as context for the contrast between warfare and youthful instincts. Well-played in Audrey Sheffield’s Finborough production, this is an intriguing play.
Jeff: Andrew Gilbert.
Buddy/Budur: Mariam Haque.
Louise: Kate Miles.
Nicey: Tom McCall.
Princess: Adam Philps.
Chips: Oliver Mott.
Jackson: Amy Loughton.
Ed: Michael Sheldon.
Director: Audrey Sheffield.
Designer: Fly Davis.
Lighting: Peter Small.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Costume: Jessica Knight.