FringeReview Scotland 2016
The two stories are around one narrative but interweave what feels like the ghosts of many stories from many wives and their warriors. With two monologues dipping in and out of each other we hear of his decision to go to war, her worry after an IED and his return. It is familiar yet new at the same time.
We enter to two people, a man and a woman. He is in combats, she is in combat – with herself. Through their monologues we come to understand that this is man and wife though they could be any service man or wife. His story of going to war may be what drives the narrative but it is her struggle to deal with the possibility of his death and his return which keeps us edgily watching.
The military have gone through a renaissance in the UK. If you are my age you will remember the way in which soldiers and recruiting sergeants were made to feel unwelcome in Colleges and Universities – they got banned – on campuses the length and breadth of the UK. We were still in Northern Ireland and the rawness of events like Bloody Sunday had sullied the reputation of a troop of men and women that had come out of the Second World War with such aplomb and admiration.
Then came our withdrawal from the Province and a change in attitude as soldiers went to fight the Falklands and then the Gulf Wars. We realised they were there for our liberty and to defend our way of life; they became heroes again.
There is no more heroic battle, though than the one faced after the bullets have been discharged and the explosions are distant memories. The internal cost of what we have asked people to do, on our behalf, are all too obvious now – for years they remained hidden. They are laid bare here in a very subtle piece of theatre here. The amount of obvious depth and understanding comes from a very well researched piece of theatre that captures us from the first syllable. To have the writers also the performers can be tricky but when they also form part of the research this gives the whole piece an authenticity from which there is little escape.
Directorially I did like most of the piece but felt at times there was an awkwardness about the staging with some moves getting in the way of feeling that it as in assured hands. To be truly theatrical it needs to embrace theatre and the stories would have captured me just as much written down – they need a performance reason to be performances.
It was a minor point and the technical support was prevalent throughout in a way that supported and gave us the true words played out in a real environment.
Overall I felt this was a particularly poignant and heartfelt piece of theatre from people who were so young yet had experienced such heartache and stress. It talks in the notes of the military family and it gave a deeper understanding of what families the world over face on our behalf; to keep ours safe, they put theirs on the line.
Whilst it may not be Black Watch, it was never meant to be and one piece of theatre should never shoulder the moniker of a definitive piece. I believe this has some way to go in terms of development but think it could prove to be just as enduring as Black Watch.