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Multiple Casualty Incident – Yard Theatre | Review

What is the most appropriate way to respond to various situations that might feasibly arise for medics being sent out to help casualties of war and/or a humanitarian crisis? A method often repeated in the training programme for an unspecified ‘organisation’ is roleplay, which facilitator Nicki (Mariah Louca) lightly moderates, only usually intervening if the participants have gone drastically off-topic. The play, and its portrayal of training for working in places like refugee camps and war zones, raises a moral and ethical dilemma. In the drive to create realistic scenarios, involving, for instance, government officials who will let humanitarian aid through but only if bribed, or a refugee who attempts to get an aid worker to do something inappropriate, could a roleplay go too far in terms pressurising or traumatising a participant? Or does the need to properly understand what a war situation can really be like override such concerns?

Peter Corboy as Dan, Credit Marc Brenner
Peter Corboy as Dan, Credit Marc Brenner.

Khaled (Luca Kamleh Chapman) ends up falling in love with Sarah (Rosa Robson), another participant in the training programme. Dan (Peter Corboy), who might have formed a love triangle with the other two if this were a musical, displays a mixture of outright cynicism and playful teasing with regards to the increasingly explicit (in more ways than one) signs of a blossoming relationship. There isn’t, of course, anything the organisation they work for can do about relationships between colleagues – it almost goes without saying that it would be interfering with the right to a private life.

But the delineation between what takes place in London and what takes place where medical and humanitarian assistance is more acutely needed becomes increasingly blurred in this play, with the backstories and personal details of the characters seeping into the roleplays. Perhaps rightly, the play doesn’t dramatize every single roleplay in the training programme, though this has the effect of a few too many scenes that end abruptly, requiring another adjustment to understand time and place as yet another scene opens.

The West End hasn’t been immune to an increasing amount of video technology in some new productions, and cameras and screens are in force here too, which might well upset purists who may wonder whether they’re at the theatre or at the cinema. Not all the camera work in this production is strictly necessary, although the overall effect is quite excellent in later scenes, particularly when a casualty is being attended to in a scenario where a military coup is in progress and the medical supplies have all been seized, without so much as a plaster left for the newly wounded.

Still, the reluctance of the characters to say too much about themselves means they are, individually and collectively, rather mysterious. At least one of them is bereaved, another one has a sister living with a chronic condition, and there’s an odd moment when Sarah simply asks Khaled what is wrong, only to be met with silence. This enigma effect makes the group somewhat impenetrable – and it transpires there are yet more skeletons in the closet, this time involving other people in the organisation, but Nicki tersely shuts down any further conversation on the matter.

There’s a level of highly realistic behaviour that goes on throughout the evening, with dialogue interrupted by incoming mobile phone calls, and incomplete and unfinished sentences. But watching a conversation suddenly stop thanks to an off-stage character calling someone isn’t exactly riveting. The production reveals, sometimes playfully, the sheer range and number of factors that need to be considered when providing humanitarian aid. But with forty scenes (if I’ve counted correctly), it was more discombobulating and about fifteen minutes longer than it needed to be, even with a committed and hardworking cast.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Going right to the heart of humanitarian crises, Multiple Casualty Incident transcends geographic boundaries to explore the complexities of aid work where personal motivations clash with the pursuit of justice, and the desire, compassion and stark realities of aid work are revealed. This world premiere is a provocative exploration of the limits of help, and the beginnings of harm where colleagues find themselves entangled in expected relationships, blurring the lines between duty and desire.

The Yard Theatre presents
Multiple Casualty Incident
Written by Sami Ibrahim
Directed by Jaz Woodcock-Stewart
Set Designer: Rosie Elnile
Costume Designer: Tomás Palmer
Lighting Designer: Zeynep Kepekli
Sound Designer: Josh Anio Grigg
Video Designer: Andrew Crofts
Cast includes Luca Kamleh Chapman, Rosa Robson, Mariah Louca and Peter Corboy

27 April to 8 June 2024


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