The titular character of Killing Roger is an old soldier; he has fought in the Second World War, has (almost certainly) killed during it and seen both friends and enemies die.
Now he lives alone, confined to a sagging armchair and visited only by harassed, time-short carers and a young man doing his bit for the community. He sees no purpose in any future.
Shelley Knowles-Dixon, who wrote the script with LW Illsey and also directs, makes Roger a life-size very realistic puppet, manipulated bunraku-style by two puppeteers – Nicholas Halliwell and Louisa Ashton. Ashton also plays the women in Roger's life, both past and present.
The design by Anna Shuttleworth allows us to be in several place and different times without confusion; the magnificent Roger puppet itself is something more, and definitely not less, than human.
Sound pervades Roger's solitary world, partly recorded though with an ever-present obligato from Illsey and his guitar at one side of the stage. We hear heart-beats – the measurement of life – and the music to which a young Roger danced. As Billy, just starting an independent life, is drawn ever closer to this man at the end of his, Graham Dron conveys his slide into a sort of maturity, one whih ultimately will see him taking full responsibility.
It's not an easy play, let alone a glib one. The issues raised are pertinent and treated with respect as well as with dramatic flair. The name of the production company – Sparkle and Dark – seems particularly apt for this piece. There is light as well as shadow by the end of the piece.
Killing Roger tours nationally until 24 June.