Back from their run at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the cast of Glory Dazed have managed to hone what was already a superb production when it ran at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer.
The story batters its way onto stage when Ray, an ex-serviceman, forces his way into a Doncaster pub long after closing time. He is sweating, shaking and covered in blood and demands to see his ex-wife Carla who is, understandably, hiding in the toilets. Ray is almost fobbed-off by bar manager Simon, but a comic turn of events ensures that Ray remains in the pub, and the story of his post-tour life is revealed.
Ray’s life-story is really the story of many voices; voices which were captured by playwright Cat Jones when she visited a group of ex-servicemen serving prison sentences at HMP and YOI Doncaster. All of the camaraderie, mental trauma and relationship problems that Jones witnessed has been channelled into Ray who is a fascinatingly complex character, and is made all the more remarkable by Samuel Edward-Cook’s fantastic performance: the frenzied pitch of his first entrance is maintained throughout, and the startling emotional turns are entirely convincing.
As the play unfolds we see how Ray’s experiences in Afghanistan have damaged his relationships with friends- Simon, partners- Carla, and even his pitiful ineptitude at forming new relationships is shown in his heavy-handed approach with new barmaid, Leanne.
Damaged, vulnerable and seemingly helpless, Ray’s character is not simply a political statement about the over-representation of ex-servicemen in UK prisons, however. What Cat Jones has created is a piercing drama that takes control of the audience and moves them from pity to disgust to darkly-comic laughter.
This play is captivating and deserves to be seen on the grounds of its excellent writing and performance alone, but as a result will hopefully raise the profile of the help needed for returning soldiers, especially at a time when all British forces are soon to be coming home from Afghanistan.