Warheads by Taz Skylar. Park Theatre 90, Clifton Terrace, London N4 to 7 September. 4****. William Russell

By Taz Skylar & Ross Berkeley Simpson.
Park Theatre – Park 90, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP to 7 September 2019.
Mon – Sat7.45pm. Mat Thu & Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 35 mins. No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 870 6876.
Review: William Russell 16 August
Miles Weppler, all of 19 years old, suffers from post traumatic stress after serving in the army in Afghanistan. He is being interviewed by a psychiatrist who is trying to discover how he can be helped and avoiding having him sectioned, which, given he seems in a very stressed and dangerous state, may be what she should be doing. Written by Taz Skyler, who also plays Miles, Warheads is based on the experiences of one of his friends and consists of a series short, powerful scenes which switch seamlessly from the present to the past, to his battle with the psychiatrist faced with deciding how to help, his relationship with his two best friends, one of whom also joined the army, and his girl friend. It is staged in traverse fashion – I do on about this but directors need to ensure the cast plays to both sides of the audience or one side will not hear what is going on – and in this instance at the start far too much happens at the far end of the space and is spoken, initially at least, far too softly. Inaudibility does not help any play.
Things do improve, but director Toby Clarke, who has staged it fluently, should do something about it The play as polemic, as making the case that PST cannot be dismissed as just something soldiers suffer from as a result of service in a war zone and the resulting alienation from society is an affliction which can be easily cured, gets its message across effectively. The action is very physical, blocks of strips of wood joined together into rough cubes are moved round the stage, thrown round the stage from one player to another at times, to create barriers, beds, places from which to survey the battlefield, and guns are toted while on the walls are posters from past war films like Full Metal Jacket which add their own comment. The roles of the women are less well written than the men, but this is about young men suffering from the after effects of what they have gone through so the focus is on them.The impact on the women in their lives is incidental to Miles’ story. The psychiatrist is a cipher, the stock sympathetic woman figure, and Miles ‘girl friend Tena, played by Klariza Clayton, seems to be there just to provide the sex interest as she is tossed between him and his best friend Mory well played by Hassan Najib.
Skylar starts off rather tentatively, but improves as the evening wears on, as does Sophie Couch, making her professional debut, as the psychiatrist. Craig Fairbrass plays the tough no nonsense captain tormenting his charges and sending them relentlessly into battle to the manner born, while Joseph Connolly as Coby, the friend who stayed out of the army, and is gay provides some light relief to the distinctly troubling goings on. He also empathises more than anybody else with the tormented Miles and arguably gives the evening’s best performance. The play puts across its message powerfully enough, and does achieve its aim of drawing attention to what happens to too many young men who join the army because there is no alternative and the need for society to come to terms with how to help them. It is not a polemic. It provides no answers. These are real people facing up to coping with a man under terrible mental strain finding it impossible to cope with civilian life.
Miles Weppler: Taz Skylar.
Tena Robinson: Klariza Clayton.
Captain Deex: Craig Fairbrass.
Phillipa Keys: Sophie Couch.
“Mory” Nasser: Hassan Najib.
Coby Tembe: Joseph Connolly.

Director: Toby Clark.
Composer & Sound Designer: Roly Botha.
Movement Director: Sean Hollands.
Production Photographs: Marcus Kartal.

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