War Plays proved to be a variety of the sublime and the ridiculous, the poignant and the hilarious, and always with heightened feelings and sentiments.
Trip by Freddie van der Velde sees Lucy (Poppy Pedder) sweating it out, quite literally, overseas – such is the heat and humidity that every step is, apparently, like walking in heavy mud. Frustrated by her work colleagues and their relatively trivial first world problems, she eventually finds herself unable to maintain a composed professionalism in a corporate office. Her outburst is both hilarious (a bizarre line manager gets his comeuppance) and problematic – she is out of a job. But this provides her with an opportunity to observe details she may not have otherwise have had time for – in particular, an unusual object floating along the canal. She signs up to participate in some sort of insurgency. Stepping on a landmine leads her to question her future once again, or even if she has one, and for Lucy, the grass is always greener on the other side.
First Timers by Gus Glassborow achieves that rarity of being a play set in a war zone and successfully providing the audience with plenty of laughs without making audiences uncomfortable. Gus Glassborow (who also directs), Ben Chandler and Charlie Field are all called Brimstone: the RAF ground attack missile of that name is personified through three characters. The play takes a different slant on the concept of friendly fire. These are missiles capable of independent thought, and each of them, bizarrely, takes off at a time of their own choosing. One Brimstone laughs at another because that other is blissfully unaware that once he is launched, there’s no coming back. Talk about ‘you only live once’.
Are We There Yet? by Jerusha Green is a longer play than the extract presented here. From what I could deduce, Simona Bitmate plays a local in an overseas war zone, and at first does not respond to direct addresses from a soldier (Jack Wilkinson), but eventually, a dialogue ensues. It’s quite a poetic play, in the sense that it’s full of imagery and, performed as well as it is here, there’s as much to be read into what isn’t spoken as what is. The soldier’s struggles continue long after the war is said and done, or at least his role in it, and a slightly overdone scene where he scrubs and scrubs, and scrubs some more, but can’t wash away mental scars, is harrowing.
On Arriving by Ivan Faute – or, to give it its full title, On Arriving At The Refugee Processing Centre, UNHCR, is a thoughtful monologue. Despite the full title, it’s not a rant about the miscellaneous problems experienced by people in such facilities. It’s a personal story, really, talking about a refugee (Sophia Eleni) who, through no fault of her own, must walk away from everything, with a future even more uncertain than ever before. Whether certain standards for the care of refugees and asylum seekers are being properly met is very nearly a completely superfluous question. A strongly performed and emotionally charged piece of theatre.
A challenging evening, and a brisk but thought-provoking set of plays. I suppose there can never be enough reminders of how privileged it is to live in peacetime, and while my own ‘problems’ may not disappear having seen War Plays, they can certainly be put into perspective.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Kicking off Theatre N16’s ‘Aftershock’ season is ‘War Plays’, two nights of four plays centering on the theme of war. The plays, Trip, Are We There Yet?, First Timers, and On Arriving seek to question the morality of modern warfare, as well as probing deeper ideas of identity.
From darkly serious, to moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, these four plays will transport you to the far-flung reaches of the world, and to the edge of your seat! With new writing from Freddie Van Der Velde (Trip), Jerusha Green (Are We There Yet?), and Gus Glassborow (First Timers), and with Sophia Eleni reprising her role as Amena in the very moving monologue On Arriving, War Plays is sure to be a night of great theatre not to be missed!
Theatre N16, Balham,
Sat 4th – Sun 5th November 2017