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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Letters Home


Genre: Drama

Venue: C Venues


Low Down

"Ribcaged" present a pacy and engaging tale of two brothers serving in the Falklands conflict, based on real letters home.


The Falklands was the first taste of close-up televised war for nearly a generation. Although in a remote setting it dominated daily affairs and the dedication of our service personnel was brought into sharp focus. The parallel with today is clearly drawn in Trace Currall’s well-edited text – Ribcaged’s "Letters Home" uses real letters from real people involved in the South Atlantic conflict, mixing in some physical theatre and song and projected images. It begins with a raiding party into an unsuspecting audience – reluctant planted rookies soon become the soldiers and sailors that populate the piece.  Through their letters, two highly competitive but loving brothers, one in the Marines, one in the Navy, tell their story of courage under fire and the constant need to communicate with home – and each other – reassuring both family and themselves.

A  white revolving box-shaped structure moves us simply from mess to battlefield, hospital to ship, but tends to over-dominate the proceedings without much visual development – the action is much more exciting and imaginative when 2 trestle tables, manipulated with bravado by four actors in a lovely set-piece, become a gun carriage at the Royal Tournament in London.

As the government responds to the Argentinian invasion, the Marines are diverted from leave straight to the war zone and the Navy side of the family, stuck in Earl’s Court, clamours to join the action, worried that the older sibling might get all the glory. The brothers are gradually drawn together in the fray, 8,000 cold and lonely miles away and begin to bear witness to all the horrors that war can create.

Rick Guard and Keith Reid’s brothers, Terry and Gary, are convincing, capturing effectively the simultaneous yearning for victory and safety. Owen Phillip’s direction keeps things brisk and pacy and there are some occasional gems, particularly Terry’s final letter home from a freezing trench, just prior to the re-taking of the islands, played simply and truthfully. The problem is that here and there the actors over-emote and with such strong subject matter the material overpowers them.

That said, a sequence about two helicopters rescuing sailors from a burning ship is poetic and moving and the final scene which ties up the story with the conversion of one of the brothers to an anti-Iraq war protester, also reminds us of those still serving in Iran – and Afghanistan.


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