Dulce et decorum est…but can it truly be fine and fitting to die for one’s country? If not, then soldiers are slain for nothing. And define a noble cause: toppling an evil dictator? Or protesting against War?
There’s a game of happy families as the Kent household welcome Michael back from Iraq, but they then have to face the consequences when younger brother, Chris, signs up. As for their parents, Mike also has to cope with dole and drink, whilst Gill, obsessed with the news, becomes involved with the group, Military Families Against the War.
A plain setting, sitting room to the fore, video projection on to the backdrop - warzone in the background, allows for many scenes to overlap. Similarly, that each character is haunted is symbolized by the physical presence of a ghost. But it is the dialogue which bring this powerful play to life, aimed straight at heart and mind. From comedy to tragedy, brilliantly authentic, it makes the initial family scenes hilariously convincing, though perhaps a little more so than the inevitable tragedies later on. The poignance of Mike’s fate is dimmed by comparison with that of his children, though Barry McCormick does a remarkable job of wrestling with the dichotomy of chin up whilst keeping your head down. As for the Westons, so stiff upper lip, it’s a wonder they can speak, Paula Stockbridge is excellent as Olivia Weston, Army wife and mother to the bitter end. Likewise the ladies whom, she feels, doth protest too much: Fionnuala Dorrity, the determined, practical Lucy Cope, and Joanna Bacon, adding some nifty humorous touches to her portrayal of Maya Johnson. Above all, Lisa Parry is splendid as the stalwart Gill, if outshone by her two boys.
Joe Shipman is quite outstanding as stroppy Chris, one of those rare actors whose flair for comedy captures laughter with one look or gesture or word. And David Lyons miraculously retains some sympathy for Michael, a man whose dwindling conscience struggles to watch out whilst brutality threatens to overwhelm humanity… as if evolution is in retreat.
Fables and fairy tales have much more to tell us than may appear on the surface. And the imaginative fiction of Theatre comes a hell of a lot closer to the truth than anything you read in the media or hear from politicians. See for yourself.
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