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Brighton Fringe 2017

Shell Shock

Smokescreen Theatre

Genre: Theatre

Venue: Sweet St Andrew's, Waterloo Street, Hove, East Sussex


Low Down

One soldier’s story of coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tommy Atkin’s observations on life on Civvy Street are poignant, frequently comic and always moving. His over-emotional responses to post office queues, a trip to Ikea, his relationships and family lead to alienation and anger.


In our society, most people are assumed to be normal unless proven otherwise. Tommy Atkin’s only desire is to find such normality; having recently left the army following tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet normality is as elusive as a mirage in the Iraqi desert for this ex-soldier; as underneath the oft calm exterior lurks a traumatised individual whose anger cannot be contained. Yet he feels it is the errors of those around him that drives him to such rage and he cannot perceive that it is he that is the cause of the problem. Relationships with other people, which he craves, sadly prove to be impossible.

During the First World War it was first recognised that long exposure to combat situations can sometimes lead ‘Shell Shock’ or what is now known as PTSD. All too often, back then it was frequently overlooked by commanders in the field who executed individuals who no longer felt they could with ‘go over the top’.

Today however, there still remains something of a stigma regarding mental illness, which is slowly being challenged, and it is only in recent years that the MOD  have begun to take this matter seriously. Yet sadly, it is still the role of charities like Combat Stress that are left to pick up the pieces of the lives of so many affected individuals.

Dark, witty, poignant and chaotic, Neil Watkins original book is written from his own experiences and those of his fellow comrades and has been well scripted for this stage version by Tim Marriott who also directs. Tom Page provides a mesmerising performance as Tommy Atkins who holds the concentration of the audience from the first to the last moment.  His delivery is direct and strong and although occasional words are lost in the sheer speed of his delivery, his projection is excellent.

On a personal note, my grandfather whom I never met, took his own life following years in the trenches of the First World War, which has cast a shadow over our family to this very day. It is the view of many that more must be done to help the soldiers who have lived through such excessive trauma and if just one ex-soldier is encouraged to seek assistance, having seen this production, this play is well worth the performing. This show will set you pondering on matters relating to armed combat and could prove a catalyst for many.