by Owen Sheers based on a concept by Alice Driver.

Tour to 14 June 2014.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 March.

Oh, what an unlovely war.
This is verbatim theatre, but not as it’s usually experienced. Instead of actors speaking ‘real people’s’ words and portraying them on stage, producer Alice Driver determined to bring the war in Afghanistan, as it affected British and Commonwealth troops, home by having director Stephen Rayne and a few women actors work alongside men wounded in action.

The troops’ stories are personal and told straightforwardly. Why they joined-up. How they were injured – IEDs rather than bullets or grenades; there’s a graphic demonstration of how an underfoot explosion mangles a body

Authenticity runs strongly through the play. To have an actor in a fictional work, lean against a crutch, one leg, amputated below the knee, resting across the other crutch’s handhold would be exploitative. To see someone ease his own amputated limb casually across the bar carries an initial comic shock, before becoming both an implied challenge – ‘you want to laugh at this?’ (or ‘bet you can’t do this’) and a sign there’s nothing that can’t be turned to some sort of advantage.

Or, almost. For the piece opens with the physical and mental agony – shouting, uncontrolled swearing and desperate singing – as Cassidy Little’s Charlie Fowler wakes from an induced coma in a Birmingham hospital, believing he’s still in Afghanistan and everyone is attacking him. Like Hamlet, he has bad dreams. So, trauma can move in next door and stay for a long generation.

Little became a soldier after performing arts training, making him a strong focus as Charlie F (and he’s Canadian, pointing to the spread of individuals drawn into the conflict). He has the opening drama and the closing speech, making the point –simplistic if it weren’t for the evidence that’s gone before – that the two worlds, of war and home, shown either side of the interval are also one.

Theatrically the strong points are the group choreographed ones, aided by music (including Jason Carr’s emotion-laden new material). There’s also an unseen choreography, those soldiers with prosthetic limbs attaching or removing them swiftly between scenes. Dramatically, though, it’s the personal accounts that hit home with the truths that hurt.

Bombardier Darren Sobey: Gareth Crabbe.
Major Daniel Thomas: Stewart Hill.
Corporal Charlie Fowler: Cassidy Little.
Rifleman Leroy Jenkins: Dan Shaw.
Corporal Roger Smith: Steve Shaw.
Lance Corporal Simi Yates: Maurillia Simpson.
Colour Sergeant Chris Ward: Darren Swift.
Sergeant Ali Briggs: Ash Young.
Young Simi Yates/Michelle Taylor: Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter.
Sapper John Booth: Tom Colley.
Sarah Thomas/Tracy Booth/Marie Ward: Miriam Cooper.
Corporal Frank Taylor: Tomos Eames.
Sergeant Jean Barker: Venetia Maitland.
Captain David Philips: Owen Oldroyd.
Lauren Preston: Lily Phillips.

Director: Stephen Rayne.
Designer/Costume: Anthony Lamble.
Lighting/Projections: William Reynolds.
Sound: Colin Pink.
Music: Jason Carr.
Choreographer: Lily Phillips.

17-22 March 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Captioned Thu Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7607
26-29 March 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Grand Theatre Wolverhampton 01902 429212
3 March-5 April 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Forum Theatre Malvern 01684 892277
14-19 April 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 989 555
21-26 April 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described & Captioned Thu 2.30pm Churchill Theatre Bromley 0844 871 7620
28 April-3 May 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Audio-described & Captioned Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne 08448 112121
6-10 May 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Norwich Theatre Royal 01603 630000
19-21 May 7.30pm Wycombe Swan High Wycombe 01494 512000
22-24 May 7.30pm Guildford G Live 0844 7701 797
27-31 May 7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm Captioned Wed 2.30pm Mercury Theatre Colchester 01206 573948
2-7 June 7.30pm Mat Thu &Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Thu 7.30pm Hall for Cornwall Truro 01872 262466
9-14 June 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Manchester Opera House 0844 871 3018

2014-03-19 13:31:19

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