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The Lonely Clouds of Guernica (Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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As the final part of Come As You Arts Northwest's anti-war trilogy Justin McGregor has written and directed a well researched documentary play from a creative angle.

The key question it poses is: Was Picasso’s Guernica covered when it was needed the most? Tony Blair and George W. Bush requested that Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, which hung at the UN, be covered up before they made their case for going to war.

McGregor takes this anecdote and weaves it into a tale of the impact of war. David Crowley is Ben a sergeant recently returned from the war. His post-traumatic stress disorder is made worse the pills he is given and he is subject to visions.

Elizabeth Lowe is very genuine as his concerned sister Hannah who persuades him to live with her. To also bring in a lodger who happens to be a young lady from Afghanistan seems to go a little to far for an already busy play. And then there is the occasional appearance from Picasso and Wordsworth.

This is a documentary play; it weaves real dates and real accounts and words into the fabric of the play. And like many verbatim pieces this is what stands out the most. Anthony Quinlan is superb as George - a soldier whose letters are the real words of servicemen who died in the war. When he reads their words, manages to conjure up a dusty
terrain and unbearable heat all with a gentle humour.

At times the intense research results in a story spiked with different angles- which is sometimes muddled. But the interesting questions raised by Lonely Clouds of Guernica - coupled with some fine performances make it a play well worth seeing.

- Joanna Ing

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