Writer: Sandra Philip
Director: Lisa Adams-Davey
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
Turning a topic like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) into good drama is a daunting challenge. Writer Sandra Philip not only interviewed many servicemen but called on her own personal experience from the illness. The chilling sharpness of the dialogue shows how faithfully she has understood the problem. Especially how certain triggers can turn a light-hearted person soul into a tormented soul.
The many scene changes are well choreographed by director Lisa Adams-Davey. But with a great number of characters and short scenes, getting fully engaged in the emotions of the people can get hampered by uncertainty about who is playing who. On the practical side no Mum would pack a soldier’s kit-bag, although I appreciate it is a moving theatrical device. Although I felt it did telegraph what lies ahead. Also you don’t leave the Army a week after ending a tour in a war zone.
The wives and girlfriends are well-drawn, if a little clichéd. The double-act of Ruth (Kylie Heron) and her mum (Lisa Adams-Davey)is a tour de force which really brings the drama to life. Philip has captured the highly-charged testosterone world of men well with Alan (Danny King) the cynical hard-man, himself smouldering like a loose-cannon about to go off.
Alan sneers at the sentimentality that others conjure up as a cloak and is an excellent foil to Paul (Philip McGuinness) who is another PTSD case in the making as he assumes responsibility for their mate’s death.
The second act is far more engaging as we get to grips with the sadly often-faced problem of integrating people into normal life once they have been brutalised by war. It shouts, rather than asks the question, of how do we cope with them? What does a woman say and feel her very able-bodied man returns as a wheelchair-bound cripple? Does the world have a right to tell her to do her duty?
And what do you do with someone who is all loving one-minute but snaps and tries to invade your home the next? Jenna (Rhiannon Jones) is desperate to believe that Ronnie (Chris Evans) who was so nice to her when they met is not a monster. Jenna’s pain and confusion is wonderfully portrayed by Jones. Her flames of anguish are wonderfully stoked by her friend Megan (Natalie Fletcher) as the voice of our received wisdom in exchanges that are superb black comedy.
And the audience is not let off the hook: Just how would we react to a Big Issue vendor who conjures up a dead mate as a fantasy friend? A powerful climax to a powerful performance which owes a great deal to the fantastic energy of its large young cast.
Runs until 3rd October.