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WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT at Tristan Bates Theatre – Review

WTF, Ed Fringe 2015
WTF, Ed Fringe 2015, courtesy Cecilia Cooper-Colby

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is written and performed by Rebecca Crookshank (“Crooky”). It is an autobiographical account of her time in the RAF taking us through her enlisting, her training, before her
service ending following a traumatic posting in the Falklands.

Through Crookshank’s excellent words and mimicry we get to know Brigitta (her Scouse “twin” who later becomes known as “Wingwoman”); her initial training officer, the formidable Scot, Corporal Bunting; Squadron Leader Wilton, an ardent feminist who champions new recruits; the tragic, Senior Aircraft Woman Blugdell, Mount Alice Man and, in a dream sequence, Air Commodore Joan Hopkins (the RAF’s first female station commander).

The play begins in 1997 with D:Ream’s “Things Can Only Get Better” and Crookshank mimicking the stern, scot, Corporal Bunting (her training officer at RAF Halton) whilst explaining her decision to leave her family and friends in Plymouth at the tender age of 17 to join the RAF (explaining that she was unable to follow her father and grandfather into the Marines as she’s a girl). She soon makes friends, including Brigitta. At the end of her six weeks of training her family attend her passing out parade. Throughout the play we are treated to short films, including some historical ones and also some more personal family footage including her passing out parade.

Crooky and Wingwoman are then transferred to RAF Neatishead in Norfolk. Whilst there they live in Salmon Block under the watchful eye of “karaoke queen”, SACW Bludgell. Shortly after they celebrate their joint eighteenth birthday they are separated and “Wingwoman” is posted to HMS Illustrious and is sent to the Middle East. They keep in touch via ASMA (an early form of e-mail). During this period tragedy strikes for Crooky with the sudden deaths of her grandma and SACW Bludgell, who she had come to respect despite a difficult start to their relationship. Crooky is in an emotional state and following an accidental painkiller overdose has a dream sequence with Air Commodore, Joan Hopkins. After spending some time in hospital she returns to the base where she has a meeting with Wilton who suggests she continues her experience as an Airwoman in the Falkland Islands. It is whilst she is here that she has a great time presenting on BFBS, the forces radio station, but also has first-hand experience of some awful bullying and sexual harassment which was carried out by Mount Alice Man and others.

Rebecca Crookshank gives a memorable, engaging and inspiring performance as “Crooky”. Introducing us to the various characters she encounters with some excellent mimicry and some good banter with the audience. There is some strong language, and some of the description of the various situations is quite graphic, but there are humourous moments too, in particular, her friendship with Wingwoman which is both enduring and believable.

The inclusion of film snippets enhances the production as does the various music from the late 1990s/2000s. Costume is a simple boiler suit although a sparkly Anne Sophie Cochevelou dress is worn for the dream Joan Hopkins scene. As you would expect, props are minimal, the cutest one being a stuffed penguin “Penguin Joan” who accompanies her to the Falklands.

I enjoyed this play; it was well performed, fun, informative, and for me, personally, a little eye opening.

Currently on tour in the UK, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is transferring to New York as part of the United Solo Festival, the World’s largest Solo Theatre Festival which runs from 15th September to 20th November 2016.

4 stars

Review by Karen Pond

Based on the true story of Rebecca Crookshank’s time in the Royal Air Force, from basic training to the Falklands, this is a heart-warming tale of courage and survival. She celebrates friendship, awakens her creativity, and uncovers dark truths about sexual harassment and bullying. Per ardua ad astra – Through adversity to the stars…

Warning: Contains strong language, weapons, and penguins.

Cast & Creatives
Writer/Performer – Rebecca Crookshank
Director – Dr Jessica Beck
Producer – Oliver Taheri
Designer Alberta Jones
http://www.wtftheplay.co.uk

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