Edinburgh Fringe 2014
In 1914 George joined the war. A year later his parents received a letter informing them that he was dead… This performance, based on a series of letters written in WW1, explores our relationship with the past and the value of archival material which, whilst subject to constructions of the imagination, is constantly appealed to as fact and misappropriated to serve political interests.
This is a new play from the pen of Josh Gardner of Theatre Moyenne who is at the Fringe for the first time. Described as "Storytelling without a narrative, a play about WW1 with no big horse puppets" this new piece is just that, some simple, direct monologue theatre, with plenty of playful and gentle quirks, including the making of tea during the performance and some strong comic moments.
At the heart is the touching story of a call centre operator who romantises aboui doing good, draws inspiration from a century-old set of documents from a soldier with his own romantic notions of war and justice. World War One and the world of today and the banking crisis are connected. How can we make a difference without real bullets and guns?
Josh Gardner has penned a witty script, chosen a difficult performance space but managed to create an intimacy that serves the piece well. He’s fully on top of the material which is a woven together set of stories, a conversational style, and an attempt to find an authentic way for us all to "do a bit of good". In the end is is a clever play about us all "at least doing something".
Gardner held my attention throughout. I laughed and I connected with his emotional journey. Sometimes the pace fell unnecessarily and I’d like to have seen the original archival material (or at least copies) used authentically on stage in its original form. Gardner also needs to claim the space a bit more – placing props in ways that better serve the narrative.
Props are key to the staging. The pocketbook he used didn’t look old enough and it is this that would give the piece an extra edge. The rest of the forty minutes were served well by a ritual of making tea, some simple costume changes and the archival material itself. A legacy, a family heirloom – some writings from down the years. The piece reminded me of Edinburgh hit Wot! No Fish? which played at Summerhall. For a small venue in the Free Fringe, Gardner has done very well. He’s succeeded in making simplicity a virtue and making direct writing and performance work as story-theatre.
I loved the fusion of old and new, the wittiness of the writing, and the intensity of the performer. The humour is light, and the power of the piece comes from this lightness. Almost nothing is overdone. So, what we have here is a skilled tempo, and an emotional level set almost as a kind of wistful longing in the performer. Gardner is personable, and this is a very personal performance. I thoroughly recommend it.