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Pushing Up Poppies

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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The realisation that they will likely die in the muddy Flanders field they inhabit dominates the lives of the four-strong cast in Kieran Lynn's Pushing Up Poppies. Evidently mentally unstable - their is no consistency to the names they use to address each other, Billy may be Watts, he may not be there at all - the four engage in irrational, irritating circular conversations.

Hunger, cold and apparent hell that surrounds them dominates their every waking moment, the soil-covered floor is a nice touch, the smell dominating the Hill Street Theatre studio from the moment the audience enter. Tension is high, fights often break out, the men can do little to avoid it. Their frustrations are vented as a rhythm game changes into something apparently more all encompassing and sinister. Unfortunately it comes from no where and disappears just as quickly.

Stephen Darcy as Webb at times gives the piece a voice of reason, at others he appears the least rational of the lot. It is a strong performance amongst a tight ensemble, but the frequent blackouts both demonstrate the endless passing of time in the trench and rob the piece of any chance to get going.

Finding the occasionally terrifying naivety in Billy, Jamie Samuel also manages to let the character's brighter vulnerability shine through his Dundonian whine. The absurdist, bureaucratic finale finally sees the piece pick up momentum, becoming a delusional pantomime and shows how well the cast can work together, but is too little too late.


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