Bully Boy: Sandy Toksvig
St James Theatre,
London SW1E 5JA
7.30pm; Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Runs: 2hr 50 mins incl interval. To 27 10.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140 T.0844 264 21400844 264 2140
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Sept 20, 2012
Powerful mix of outrage and humour.
Soldiers marred by battle are seldom the subject of drama. On Remembrance Day, they’re kept quietly hidden away from public view though under the gaze of the success of the Paralympics, authorities may be forced to acknowledge their presence more openly.
In the meantime, Sandi Toksvig, more usually associated as presenter in chief of the highly popular The News Quiz and one of our sharpest wordsmiths has come up with a gem of a play exposing the hidden psychological traumas of combat and the nature of camaraderie.
Moved by research she undertook for a previous literary exercise, her novel, Valentine Grey,
in her programme note Toksvig tells how incensed she became the more she read and researched the stories of the treatment of returning soldiers.
Launching the new St James Theatre – once the Westminster Theatre, home for a while of the Moral Re-Armament Movement and latterly, and this strangely omitted in the history of the building, intended as the home of Talawa and Black Theatre before the building mysteriously went up in smoke – Bully Boy was initially commissioned by the Nuffield Theatre Southampton.
It’s a remarkable two-hander, not least for the evenness of tone Toksvig brings to bear with sympathies for both sides of the class divide and her ability to get inside the feelings of her two male protagonists, Major Oscar Hadley and squaddie Eddie Clark.
Compact, beautifully directed by Patrick Sandford with back projections and a thundering, all too real bombarding sound scape, it sits perfectly in the cockpit shaped, three-sided St James auditorium where Anthony Andrews’ wheelchair bound Major is attempting to uncover the story behind an alleged atrocity by a British unit serving in Iraq/Afghanistan.
The role fits Andrews to a tee. By turns watchful, commanding and increasingly vulnerable as his own story as a Falklands hero emerges, he’s matched by Joshua Miles’ impressive northern born Eddie brutalised by his experiences as Toksvig takes us forward and backwards, eking out the details of the incident but also the developing relationship between the two men.
Toksvig’s outrage at the psychological and physical repercussions on the men who serve is patent but equally well leavened with humour, it makes Bully Boy both deeply moving, and deeply affecting.
Oscar: Anthony Andrews
Eddie: Joshua Miles
Director: Patrick Sandford
Designer: Simon Higlett
Lighting Designer: James Whiteside
Sound Designer: John Leonard
Casting Director: Joyce Nettles
Projection Designer: Scott Radnor
Dramaturg: Pip Broughton
Choreographer: Katie Beard
Bully Boy was originally commissioned by the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.
This production produced by St James Theatre Productions in association with Lee Dean, Charles Diamond, Daniel Schumann and Royal & Derngate, Northampton where this production first started.
First performance of this production at St James Theatre, Sept 18, 2012