Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Scott is a soldier who is fighting with his wife Louise. There are things he cannot tell her about what went on during his latest tour. She struggles to find the way into his head, as she used to when they were courting. From there we find, through flashback, how they got together and how they ended up with a baby. The stresses and perils of being involved with a solider are played out with Scott’s former sergeant now in civvies and his wife as well as Louise’s mother trying to help and protect. We finally turn full circle to the argument again. To end we hear the views of an army wife in a poem given to us straight from the stage without comment or overblown expression – it needs neither.
This is a straight play with charitable objectives that quite simply works. There is no need to be charitable in your view of the piece – it simply does what it intends and does it very well. You have Scott and Louise arguing and in a time when we are finally catching on to the difficulties of returning soldiers – I live 15 miles away from Hollybush – we could be forgiven for thinking PTSD was on the cards here. It’s not. Louise’s story becomes the focus as we come to understand how falling for a soldier causes so much more angst and torture than just trying to deal with their absence. Through the courting, having to write to tell him she is pregnant, the birth, a concerned mother interfering, the distance and break up until the phone call that says he might not be coming home alive we travel with her and Scott on a journey that is as compelling and complete as you could hope.
You could be forgiven for thinking that we have become uncharitably fed up with charities. From people in the street to door to door canvassers we don’t even need Telethons any more as people try to snatch the guilty pound from our pay packets. You could therefore understand if any of the five actors dropped their levels for this. The remarkable thing is not that they don’t but they give you such a complete sense of knowing with what they are engaged. They provide us with the most incredible insight whilst showing how important the themes and issues are to THEM, never mind how important they ought to be to us. All five enthral.
The one difficulty I have with the piece is the set. As my mother used to say it will one day do someone a mischief. The set does not fit the space and the constant having to watch as you step over things to get to your mark must irritate as time goes on. It would work in a larger space as it is quite a good idea and when used as seats and window ledges works well. There is one small segment where Scott, who is a head taller than Louise is standing behind her framed and it is lovely. There is also the point where they break the convention where if you are not in the same frame you don’t make eye contact and admit their love to each other which is great. I also like the use of the camera shutter to collect and connect those Kodak moments.
Charitable productions can be designed to get your hands on your wallets to contribute. They can be schmaltzy, too much and tug once too often on your heart strings. This is a great piece of work that presents the facts and asks you to consider them. It doesn’t ask you to see one character as selfish and the other as misunderstood. It doesn’t ask you to ban your daughter from seeing soldiers or try and steer your son into the army. It asks you to watch and then realise how hard these issues are for the people stuck with them on a daily basis. It then asks you to contribute to three highly worthwhile charities. The biggest contribution that could be made was when these creatives took on this play and asked us for our support. We need to give them it.