by Roy Williams.

Royal Shakespeare Company Tour to 28 November 2009.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
Review: Jan Pick 3 November at Belgrade Theatre Coventry.

Good play asking what war’s good for.
This powerful, raw and violent play (written for the RSC in 2007) does not just explore unpleasant aspects of the army in Basra; it addresses the psychological impact of the war on ordinary young men and how they and their friends are changed by it.

The story follows a group of young adults from a deprived estate, whose idea of a good night out is to get ‘bladdered’, throw up over each other and have sex. Two of them, Jamie and Ben, are celebrating their last night at home before going to Iraq, and form relationships with Hannah and Trish. We then witness the dehumanising effect of their experiences at war. It’s a highly charged evening, not for the faint hearted, but it packs a real punch and succeeds in making its audience uncomfortable.

Playwright Roy Williams has revised the third act, but in some ways it may have been better to have addressed act one. The characters initially appear as deeply unpleasant, and the actors have to work hard to make their audience care about them. All credit then to the talented young cast who, by the end of the evening, succeed in establishing that rapport.

More than anything else the play explores belonging. Jamie has to decide where his loyalties lie, to the army and the truth, or his old friends. The army dislocates him from his past; if it rejects him, and he alienates his old friends he is lost. Hannah, his girlfriend, is in a similar position, having alienated herself from the group by going to university. Neither is comfortable in their old surroundings, yet neither can completely reject their past without destroying an essential part of themselves.

Lizzie Clachan’s set conjures up the sleazy, down at heel atmosphere of inner city England, ingeniously changing into army base and house-to-house fighting in Basra. The company work well as an ensemble, with special credit to Toby Wharton, who skilfully charts Ben’s mental deterioration, Sarah Ridgeway who persuades us the pugnacious Trish has an inner sensitivity and George Rainsford’s complex portrayal of the destruction of Jamie’s life.

Donna: Venetia Campbell.
Gail: Lu Corfield.
Tony/Sean: Danny Dalton.
Bouncer/Wedding Guest: Jason Deer.
Clare: Sandy Foster.
Maxine: Sheryl Gannaway.
Steve: Simon Harrison.
Wedding Guest: Scott Hazell.
Vince/Darren: Steven Helliwell.
Hannah: Joanna Horton.
Lenny: David Kennedy.
Dan: Luke Norris.
Jamie: George Rainsford.
Trish: Sarah Ridgeway.
Brookes/Bouncer: Mark Theodore.
Ben: Toby Wharton.

Director: Maria Aberg.
Designer: Lizzie Clachan.
Lighting: David Holmes.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Movement: Ayse Tashkiran.
Text/ Voice work: Jacquie Crago.
Fights: Malcolm Ranson.
Dramaturg: Jeanie O’Hare.
Assistant director: Leonie Kubigsteltig.

2009-11-08 01:53:23

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