TOY SOLDIER, 3Star***, London, To 08 10 16

by Jonathon Crewe.
3Stars ***

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre to 08 10 16
410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH.
Tues – Sat 7.45pm.
Runs 1 hr No interval.

TICKETS: 0333 666 3366
Review William Russell 20 September.

Something of a moral maze; absorbing
Both stimulating and topical, given the current pressure to protect servicemen from being sued for war crimes and the threats by veterans to sue others in return, including Tony Blair over the Iraq war. The problem with this short play is that one gets slightly confused by the courtroom setting.

We are present at a trial of a servicewoman, Donna Britten, an army private, for the torture and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Basra. But the procedures seem very odd, apparently because some are modelled on hearings in America. Is it a murder trial in court, or an enquiry before a judge?

In a sense this does not matter too much because what Jonathon Crewe is asking us to consider is clear enough. On the other hand the feeling of things being not quite right has the effect of undermining the case. The interrogations appear to have been recorded, which is not true. But they were often filmed by the soldiers involved on their mobile phones.

Soldiers obey orders. This soldier should never have been given these duties, for which she was not trained, in the first place. She was also infatuated with the Lance Corporal in charge, who we are told was a psychopath. She claims she was doing what everybody did. Soldiers are not trained to question orders. And so it goes on up the line right from the NCOs to the officers to the generals and then the very top brass.

Then there are the politicians who visit the front lines, and tell the chaps what a good job they are doing, who are also complicit in what is happening.

It makes for an interesting hour, however, and the issues raised are worth debating while the performances of the cast, especially that of Bianca Beckles-Rose as the stubborn, lost Donna are very good indeed. The point about Donna is she has found in the army, a place where she fits in, something denied her in her family life, The result is she does not question what she was asked to do. Following orders, even when they are not specifically given, was what was expected of her. It would all work better if the framework was better established to show what would happen in an enquiry or courtroom here rather than in this slightly off kilter devised setting.

Donna Britten: Bianca Beckles-Rose.
Soames: Stanley Eldridge.
Philippa Beach: Louisa Smith.
The Judge: Bruce Kitchener.
Additional voice cast: Arian Nik, Joseph Blunt, Edward Tidy.

Director: Jonathon Crewe.
Designer: Millie Ashdown.
Sound Designer: Andrew Lewis

2016-09-30 12:24:51

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