THE SWEETHEARTS To 17 October.

London.

THE SWEETHEARTS
by Sarah Page.

Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 17 October 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
www.finbooroughtheatre.co.uk (no booking fee by ’phone or online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 September.

Good ingredients not fully mixed as convincing drama.
Ever since transport allowed it – at least back to World War II and ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’ Vera Lynn – women entertainers have made morale-boosting visits to troops in war zones. Sarah Page’s trio of singers – they don’t get the chance to exercise their larynxes musically here – visit ‘our boys’ at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

That they are essentially still boys is clear from the opening as three soldiers muck about, one asserting rank as Lance Corporal while insisting he’s not to be called ‘Sir’. Private Robins is the quiet, sensitive poet among them, still a photo-carrying adolescent in love with the girl who’s become The Sweetheart’s lead singer Corinne (Coco).

In their tent-office with bunks the three men plan their line of attack on The Sweethearts, who arrive and flake-out in the heat. But it’s less the thermometer putting the heat on them than the demands of their manager and, through him, the public. Following a bereavement Corinne wants to leave the group, bitterly telling the others that without her their careers will be over. Hardly good news for on-the-mend alcoholic Helena or quietly unconfident Marianne.

An intense situation turns perilous as the Taliban arrive, but the final showdown comes when the disgruntled Coco refuses to dedicate a song to Captain Nicholls’ young daughter, a besotted Sweethearts fan. As her career pressure rubs against Nicholls’ nerve-shattering action in war, the refusal leads to vengeful humiliation, which only one character has the strength to withstand.

It makes for riveting watching, but the developing situation is too contrived to convince. Characters haven’t enough depth, the play’s structure doesn’t follow each to the point where they contribute credibly to an omnicrisis.

There are, though, strong elements and well-earned tension over individual reactions to the final assault. Yet the acting in Daniel Burges’s production hasn’t, overall, quite the precision and intensity to makes an officer’s breakdown, a corporal’s frequent silence as lower ranks play around or the three singers’ internal quarrels come to life, while there’s something over-deliberate about the singers’ positionings at times. There are good ingredients here, but in a somewhat lumpy mix.

Private David Robins: Joe Claflin.
Private Trevor Smith: Jack Bannon.
Lance Corporal Mark Savy: Jack Derges.
Corporal Rachel Taylor: Laura Hanna.
Captain Thomas Nicholls: Stevie Raine.
Corinne: Sophie Stevens.
Helena: Maria Yarjah.
Marianne: Doireann May White.

Director: Daniel Burgess.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Paul Comerford.
Sound: Edward Lewis.

2015-09-28 16:13:55

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