BULLY BOY To 28 May.


by Sandi Toksvig.

Nuffield Theatre University Road SO17 1TR To 28 May 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 26 May.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.

TICKETS: 023 8067 1771.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 May.

No bullies, but victims in a thoughtful and finely-produced look at the people behind the uniforms.
A year after his Antony and Cleopatra, Nuffield Director Patrick Sandford returns to Middle Eastern war-zones, replacing a large-scale classic with Sandi Toksvig’s new two-hander. Based on detailed research, her play follows an army major’s investigation into a private’s involvement in an alleged war atrocity.

The act committed involved a child’s death. And young soldiers, children themselves a few years before, face danger. As Burnley-born Eddie, the accused, says, this isn’t a war, defined by fronts, but an insurgency threatening sudden death everywhere, 24:7.

It could be Iraq, or Afghanistan: what’s in a name? Back in Burnley, people neither know nor care; and as for understanding the country himself, Eddie’s never even asked how Burnley got its name. In the end, when Oscar, the major, visits the Lancashire town for a memorial to soldiers killed in action, it’s not Burnley where the two end-up, but nearby Pendle, which means ‘hill-hill-hill’: what’s in a name?

Glimpses of Eddie’s victim and his mother haunt the action (an element that might be more consistent in Sandford’s staging), while Robin Don’s revolving set makes a unity of Britain and Middle Eastern scenes. For, wherever he goes, Eddie is mentally locked into the war-zone. He begins by dismissing any local’s death. He ends seeking inclusion with dead army friends, in a bond stronger than life.

Along the way the formal relation of investigator and suspect loosens. It might be another example of comradely feeling – Oscar has been in a wheelchair following the Falklands and suffers temporary hearing loss in an explosion. It might be pity, or physical attraction for the young working-class man.

It’s certainly a useful dramatic device for broadening the conversational territory (though playwrights might be banned from using the drinking-scene as a device without some very special dispensation, which wouldn’t be given here).

The intensity of Sandford’s work, with no background sound, is admirable, as are both the performers, Anthony Andrews keeping the voice of assured authority even when the relationship has moved from the purely procedural, and Joshua Miles mixing the defensive insolence of ignorance and the open frankness of naivety.

Oscar: Anthony Andrews.
Eddie: Joshua Miles.
Boy: Isaac Mittoo/Daniel Hannah.
Woman: Tracey Woolmar/Tamsin Withers.
Newsreader: Charlotte Green.

Director: Patrick Sandford.
Designer: Robin Don.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Rob Jones.
Movement: Katie Beard/Paul Benzing.
Assistant director: Arden Redgrave.
Movement: Katie Beard/Paul Benzing.
Assistant director: Arden Redgrave.

2011-05-25 00:32:38

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