Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Attired like a regular in the bar of the local Royal British Legion Club, Lukowiak takes us back with him to the South Atlantic and the war to free the Falklands.
A larger number of veterans who saw action in the Falklands War have killed themselves in the years since the end of hostilities in 1982 than actually died during hostilities. It is a grizzly statistic. Behind each case is a personal tragedy and a story gone untold. It is a wretched thing to lose a loved one to a suicide inspired by the memory of war.
Ken Lukowiak is a survivor, not only of the fight to liberate the islands from the Argentine Junta but also of the post traumatic stress disorder which strikes at ex-servicemen regardless of nationality. The ex-2 Para‘s memoir A Soldier’s Song was published in 1993 in both Britain and Argentina to critical acclaim. John Le Carre once urged, “Next time you hear your child sing Rule Britannia, read him this.” Lukowaik’s magnum opus has been described as the Falklands’ Goodbye to All That, is mentioned in the same breath as All Quiet on the Western Front and is now required reading on several university courses.
The first stage version came to Edinburgh in 1998, adapted by and starring Fringe legend Guy Masterson. The show went on to tour across the UK and overseas drawing the attention of many veterans of combat. This year, the 30th since the Black Buck Raids, the sinking of Belgrano, the battle of Goose Green and the liberation of Port Stanley, also sees the return of A Soldier’s Song but with an important change in casting. Circumstances have conspired to land Lukowiak in a different kind of theatre. This is the first time that he has taken to the stage himself for any reason. He goes off like a bomb.
Attired like a regular in the bar of your local Royal British Legion Club, speaking with the authority of someone who was there and with the candour of a gifted natural storyteller, Lukowiak storms the stage. No quarter is given. We are subjected to a barrage of sound and lighting effects as well as to the fear, pride, regret and horror of war as it is actually experienced. Authentic goosebumps, direct from Goose Green. When it’s all over the audience reel, shell-shocked from Assembly Roxy. There are women on the verge of tears. Men have adopted an immobile set to their jaws and everyone is avoiding eye contact. We have voyaged to the South Atlantic, felt the pangs of homesickness and fatigue. We have rushed under fire to save a wounded foeman and shown two fingers to the top brass.
But the uncomfortable truth of life at the Fringe is that no matter how good a storyteller is or how much they bring to each performance a novice can only draw out so much even from the ripest fruit.
In the hands of Guy Masterson, however, every drop of juice is squeezed from both the script and its originator with not a sign of pith or squeak of pip. If this show were a pub it would be named for the white hart, that mythical quarry sought by prince and pauper alike – something so unusual as to inspire wonder. Here at last is a show with no acting yet pitch-perfect direction. My only regret is that I have just 5 stars to offer – you must see this show.