The Unreturning by Anna Jordan. Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London & on tour. 4**** – William Russell



By Anna Jordan.


Theatre Royal, Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, London E15 1BN to 2 February 2019 and on tour. Curve, Leicester 11 – 16 February, Oxford Playhouse 26 February – 1 March.

Performances – 24,25,26,27 30 Jan at 7.30pm.  24,26,31 Jan at 2.30pm.

Runs 1 hr 40 mins No interval.

TICKETS: 020 8534 2019.




Review: William Russell 22 January

The aftermath for men of war

    This powerful, exciting and stunningly staged play deals with three men from a Northern town who each return from a different field of battle – George in 1918 from the Western Front, Frankie in 2013 from Helmund in Afghanistan and Nat from a refugee camp in Norway comes back to a Britain ravaged by civil war in 2026. They have all been affected by the experiences they have gone through, are mentally very disturbed and at odds with the world they have returned to. They are quite simply damaged, possibly beyond repair. The cast of four play all the roles, have been drilled superbly – this is ensemble playing of the highest order – and throw themselves round the very versatile  set with amazing physical dexterity.

It consists of what looks like a container – has two doors and open ends and one open side. It can revolve and the stories are told as the players run through it, climb over it, and are suspended from the sides. Watching is enthralling. But it is the stories that move the heart – the wife who cannot understand, the man who can no longer fit in, the way society and the media exploit their fame or notoriety, and fail to understand why something that happened has a reason, is not simply brutality for brutality’s sake.  This is what the theatre can do to move the emotions, to make one think about the problems these returning men who were fighting to make our world safer face – and possibly even to understand at the end a little of what they are going through. One of the most exciting things about the evening I attended, the events on stage apart, was that the audience was very young – teenagers, early twenties. They were enthralled.  Director Neil Bettles has done a terrific job, and there is no faulting the performances of the players – Jared Garfield (Frankie), Joe Layton (George), Jonnie Riordan (Nat) and Kieton Saunders Browne (Finn). This fine Frantic Assembly production is by any standards one that should be unmissable, but the run is selling well so be quick.


Frankie: Jared Garfield.

George: Joe Layton.

Nat: Jonnie Riordan.


Director: Neil Bettles.

Set & Video Designer: Andrzej Goulding.

Lighting Designer: Zoe Spurr.

Sound Designer: Pete Malkin.

Costume Designer: Lily Arnold.

Associate Director: Jessica Williams.

Production Photographs: Tristram Kenton.


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