by Ross Ericson
Park Theatre (Park 90) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park N4 3JP To 14 July 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval,
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 June.
Forceful and economic exploration of fault-lines around the battlefield.
With modernity and precision, the new Park Theatre, a minute from Finsbury Park station (Wells Terrace exit) has no truck with ‘main-house’ or ‘studio’, instead identifying its auditoria by seating capacity, the 200 and the 90.
In the latter, Ross Ericson’s play builds multiple meanings for its title, as it shows two British soldiers in Afghanistan. Ericson takes care to suggest this is a British, not simply English, army. The casualties aren’t only the dead, incapacitated, and the walking-wounded officer investigating a fatal incident, but relationships between comrades-in-arms and with Emma Stansfield’s troubled Emma, wife of a sergeant in front-line service.
Ericson sets up plot expectations, then avoids them like the explosive devices his two sergeants disarm. As sergeants, they have a front-line authority; their contempt for the sending of raw young soldiers to this heat and danger is evident. Along with equipment failure it creates a wider source of battlefield casualties.
Like Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 film about bomb-disposal in the Middle East, The Hurt Locker, one casualty here is the relationship with home. Bigelow’s central character can’t translate from the tight routines of dismantling explosive devices to the wide choice a supermarket offers. Ericson shows the army creates its own reality for soldiers.
Yet there’s a parallel between rendering an explosive harmless, and Gary’s inability to father a child, which complicates relationships with Finlay Robertson’s serious, straightforward Mike. Jealousy injects complications into lives that depend upon intense, unquestioning cooperation.
As the action switches between desert and home, director Harry Burton clearly presents how Ericson keeps explosions at bay as skilfully as his characters. Both the dissection of a bomb and of the men’s lives on leave are taut and convincing, as military policeman Patrick Toomey’s stern questions intermix with Afghanistan, including a particularly tense scene where Alex Ferns shows Gary happy in army life, where danger is simple and identifiable, chatting and singing while investigating a particularly complicated explosive only inches from his head.
Ericson is not making propaganda, but skilfully weaves his human story to create a modern experience which needs remembering as the Great War centenary approaches.
Gary: Alex Ferns.
Mike: Finlay Robertson.
Emma: Emma Stansfield.
Peter: Patrick Toomey.
Director: Harry Burton.
Designer/Costume: Katharine Heath.
Lighting: Ziggy Jacobs.
Sound: Fergus Waldron.
Assistant director: Harry Mackrill.