CHIGGER FOOT BOYS
by Patricia Crumper
Tara Arts Theatre, 356 Garratt Lane, London SW18 4ES to 11 March 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm. Mat 2 & 9 March 2.30pm 11 March 3pm.
Runs90 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8333 4457.
Review: William Russell 23 February.
The Empire strikes back
In a bar in Kingston, Jamaica, four young men are playing dominoes watched by the owner Medora. One of them, a soldier called Lynton, has designs on her which she is inclined to resist since he has wife. The others are a boy from the countryside and two young men out on the town – Norman Manley, a Rhodes Scholar home on holiday, and his younger brother Roy.
They will all end up in Europe serving the Motherland in the Great War. Patricia Crumper tells the story as a series of vignettes with the action moving back in time from the war years to that first night in 1914 as the four come to terms with the realities of service and the British Empire heads to its doom. It is an effective dramatic device, although maybe one needs to know more about who they are – Norman Manley was to become Prime Minister in the fullness of time.
The play’s message about the Empire is spelled out in a striking speech delivered by Norman in which he sees Britain as the hub of a great turning wheel taking its share of what all the dominions round the rim provide – goods go out, profit flows back. Those who live in the rim think they understand the Empire and believe in the Motherland, but the Great War has led to their seeing up close the reality of the great machine they are there to die to defend.
The imperial legend in which we exported parliamentary government, grandiose government houses and legislative buildings, and good legal practices to countries round the globe more out of the goodness of our hearts than the desire to fill out pockets has long been shattered. But there still lingers – what else is Ukip about? – a British belief in our superiority as a people, a belief that our way is the best and only way. The performances are good; the staging simple but effective and the play does make one think. The past may be another country, but to understand the present you need to understand that country as it was and not as the myth would have it.
Medora: Suzette Llewllyn.
Linton: Stanley J. Browne.
Mortie: Ike Bennett.
Norman Manley: Jonathan Chambers.
Roy Manley: John Leader.
Everyone else: Matthew Truesmith.
Director: Irina Brown.
Designer: Louis Price.
Lighting Designer: Kevin Treacy.
Music/Sound Designer: Dominique Le Gendre.
Voice-dialect coach: Claudette Williams.