In recent years, Richard Wilson has directed a succession of tight, nuanced productions of contemporary plays in Sheffield Theatres' Studio. Audiences who have come to expect much from his work may be disappointed by his latest production of Robin Hooper's new play Love Your Soldiers.
The play follows the lives of two British soldiers posted in Afghanistan and the woman who waits for them both back home. There are many potentially interesting aspects to the story, most notably the Afghan 'bacha bazi' tradition that dresses young boys as women and has them dance as girls, but unfortunately this material has not been synthesised into a fully satisfying piece.
Jordan Bright is left somewhat exposed in his professional stage debut as badly injured soldier, Roly, and Chris Reilly is almost incomprehensible as a Scottish superior officer. Charlotte Beaumont and Chris Leask make a better job of the play's central couple, Gemma and Ken, but are hampered by their poorly drawn characters. Farshid Rokey and Nabil Elouahabi bring an engaging sensitivity to their range of Afghan roles. Tim Reid's video projections effectively recreate the soldiers' reliance on Skype.
Perhaps a bit of playing in will help this production develop; though not as much as a bit of redrafting might.
Love Your Soldiers continues at Sheffield Theatres' Studio until 23 November. For further information visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk