Home » London Theatre Reviews » Pink Mist by Owen Sheers at Hampton Hill Theatre | Review

Pink Mist by Owen Sheers at Hampton Hill Theatre | Review

Pink Mist - Photographer Sarah Carter
Pink Mist – Photographer Sarah Carter

There’s a reason why the programme for this production of Pink Mist contains a glossary – the same one that explains why there was one in the programme for Billy Elliot the Musical. It helps audiences understand certain words and phrases in the dialogue: I had no idea that ‘pitchen’ is ‘Bristol slang for settling snow’, or that ‘Terry’ is ‘British army slang for the Taliban’, for instance. Sometimes the dialogue goes at quite a pace, and as the script takes the form of a (very) long poem, the content is often rich, drawing the audience in.

The video projections, some of which comprised abstract images, were effective. Elements of physical theatre permeated the performance – and as a wheelchair is visible at the back of the stage from the beginning of the show, it is hardly surprising that at some point it is put to good use. For all the movement and choreography, perhaps the most poignant moments come when Hads (Jack Lumb) goes through a process of rehabilitation after being fitted with prosthetic legs – against medical advice, he stands with the aid of crutches at a fellow soldier’s funeral to pay tribute because it simply won’t do, as far as he is concerned, to just sit there.

I was impressed with the character development in what is a very rounded plot: not only are the perspectives of Hads, Arthur (David Shortland) and Taff (Tom Cooper) included, but also those of the partners of Arthur and Taff, Gwen (Rebecca Tarry) and Lisa (Asha Gill), and Hads’ mother, Sarah (Helen Lowe). It’s not so much about the theatre of war, though the sound effects were sufficiently authentic enough to make a fellow theatregoer jump slightly at least twice, but its consequences.

But there’s not just the aftermath, and the miscellaneous problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The story is not entirely in chronological order, usually a bugbear for me, but it’s well-constructed here, and the soldiers are not simply portrayed as armed forces personnel slugging it out on the frontline, but in their (even) younger years as people who went clubbing in the city centre and had family connections. And as the script is silent with regards to set, props and costumes, only stipulating sound effects, this production is relatively sparse in terms of items on stage at any one time. Less is more, y’see.

Some of the background music, however, came across as superfluous in places, as did some of the movements. An example: did the characters really have to actually link arms to make the point that soldiering is a team effort? I suppose it gave the audience something to look at whilst the narration was going on, and the movements were highly synchronised, as though they were soldiers on parade.

There are harrowing accounts of life on the frontline, but the pain is most acutely felt after the event – even years afterwards. I cannot comment on the authenticity of the Bristolian accents, except to say they are consistent in this production. The focus is on the characters’ stories, without being overtly political (though one could find a social commentary of sorts in some of the details, such as when Arthur points out that one of the reasons Taff joined the Armed Forces was because his current job did not pay sufficient wages to “clear the debts”). Thankfully, the show does not stray into melodrama at any point. This is a production that tenderly and beautifully exposes the fragility of human life. Compulsive viewing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

When the battle’s over, their war’s just begun
Best friends Arthur, Hads and Taff were barely out of their teens when they were deployed to Afghanistan. Returning to the women in their lives who must now share the physical and psychological aftershocks of their service, they find their journey home is their greatest battle. Marking the centenary of the 1918 armistice, this very modern perspective on the timeless effects of war, blends Owen Sheers’ searing verse with powerful physical theatre.

Hampton Hill Theatre
90 High Street
Hampton Hill
Hampton, TW12 1NZ
Dates: Saturday October 20th – Friday October 26th 2018


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