This was a fitting time to see this production, on the day after Remembrance Sunday in the Garrison Town of Colchester. The newly refurbished Studio Theatre was a wonderful space for the play, as it enabled the audience to feel both physically and emotionally engaged.
The play concerns the politics of war but we become more involved in the story of two soldiers and the politics rapidly take a subservient position. Oscar is a major in the Military Police, sent to investigate the murder of an eight-year-old child (played by Austin Humphreys) named Omar in Afghanistan. A group of soldiers were caught up in the incident and Oscar must sort through the evidence and get to the root of the death. Eddie is a young soldier from the patrol who is under suspicion.
Both of the characters are played sympathetically and the tension builds and is released effectively. Eddie is a troubled young man, not helped by the military system. He is played sensitively, with humour and with a darker despair. It is a physically demanding role as well as an emotional roller coaster. I thoroughly enjoyed Josh Collins’ interpretation. Oscar is another multi-layered and complex part. We feel that Oscar is a decent man, trying his best to work through military red tape to find justice for the patrol, Eddie and the dead child. I was completely engaged by Andrew French’s portrayal. It is an equally physical role with the added implication that justice must be seen to be done. Both actors are to be congratulated on a believable and enthralling evening. The occasional appearance of the child was a poignant reminder to us all about the reason behind this play.
The Director is Dan Sherer and his interpretation of the play was excellent. The relationship between the two men gradually developed and the contrasts between high drama, sadness and humour were sensitively balanced. As the play is only ninety minutes in length an interval was not necessary and a break would have weakened the drama considerably. The use of the small stage was such that it never felt cramped. The set was versatile and with the lighting and sound gave us plenty of atmosphere and a feeling we were there with them. The fight scenes were well executed and believable, even at such close quarters. The overall production was highly effective and enhanced the evening.
We were privileged to hear the author, Sandi Toksvig, speak before the play on the experiences of her partner who, as a psychotherapist, has dealt with many soldiers who have returned from war with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has been severely upset and enraged by their treatment.
This play is not a documentary but a vivid account of events that often happen in any arena of war. While it makes no statement about the rights or wrongs of war, it is a powerful piece on the responsibility we all bear to see that combatants are treated fairly and justly. It is important that a combatant’s mental well-being is given as much importance and expert treatment as any physical injuries.
Review by Delia Tickner
Patrolling the dusty streets, every step could be your last.
You’re twenty years old, a soldier in the British Army, and everyone’s watching your every move – the locals, the enemy, your comrades, your commander. The pressure is constant.
Private Edward Clark is every inch the hero to his mates in the Bully Boys, but he’s shattered inside – haunted by one particular battle on which his whole life has turned. When Major Oscar Handley is called to investigate the outcome of this chaotic firefight, his enquiry lifts the lid on Eddie’s fragile mental health, and an unlikely bond is formed between the two men.
Sandi Toksvig is best known as a comedian, broadcaster and writer. In this intense and enthralling drama, Toksvig digs deep into the ‘war on terror’ to explore the relationship between two men in crisis.
Bully Boy is directed by Dan Sherer, Artistic Director of the Colchester based Real Circumstance Theatre Company
WATCH THE BULLY BOY TRAILER…
By Sandi Toksvig
Director Dan Sherer
Designer James Cotterill
Lighting Designer Charlie Lucas
Sound Designer Steve Mayo
Resident Composer Rebecca Applin
Thursday November 5th to Saturday November 24th, 2015
Mercury Theatre Colchester
Colchester CO1 1PT