Long Day’s Journey Into Night

HOME, Manchester

Written by Eugene O’Neill

Directed by Dominic Hill

This is co-production by HOME and Citizen’s Theatre of Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical and Pulitzer award winning play. Director Dominic Hill has shaped an exquisitely raw study of a family trapped in the throes of addiction and regret. Written in 1942 it covers one fateful day in the life of the Tyrone family as they acknowledge the hopeless reality they exist in and the ways in which they each seek to escape their pain. As younger son Edmund reflects, Who wants to see life as it is, if they can help it? Each one of them is a shadow of their original selves, consumed by their addictions and in Edmund’s case; quite literally by tuberculosis.

Tom Piper has created a haunting and deeply evocative set for this production. It is the bare exposed bones of a house reflecting the exposed failings and regrets of the family. It looked unfinished like the framework of a house where the architects plans got lost or waylaid and no one had the skills or temerity to try to fill in the gaps. In a similiar fashion Mary Tyrone is such a childlike wraith she has never fully grasped her role as a homemaker, wife or mother. The foggy opaqueness of the walls echo the transparency of this family’s lies and excuses. There is nowhere to hide and as the projected sounds of restless movement or conversation echoes from rooms further back in the house, it feels like the audience has no choice but to eavesdrop just like the family do.

The design of the house also echoes the theme of the fog which prevails throughout the play. It is a potent signifier of the ways in which each of the family seek to lose themselves from reality in a fog of alcohol or morphine or memories. As Mary reflects how I love the fog, it hides you from the world…… No one can find you or touch you any more. Tellingly it is the foghorn she hates, a blessed beacon of safety for some, but for her a wretched call back to reality.

It is the profoundly narcissistic Mary who dominates the play with her desperate neediness and appalling insensitivity to the feelings and needs of her family. Bríd Ní Neachtain embodies the essence of this fluttering morphine addicted waif. She is girlish and gay or plaintive and rueful, then flits into prickly, resentful and defensive. Her performance brings alive every facet of a women who was spoilt and cosseted by her father and husband, but who has been disappointed by marriage and family life and aging. This lying dope fiend is at times truly a fiend as she deflects her own shortcomings unto her family. One son is cruelly scapegoated for the death of her middle son while the youngest gets no comfort when diagnosed with consumption but is vilified and blamed for making her worry and therefore need her morphine fix. Yet this performance by Nì Neachtain also evokes pity for this once pretty and talented young women who has become an aging embittered addict.

George Costigan does a warmly, upbeat James who desperately hopes that each trip to the sanatorium for his wife will bring a permanent cure, yet who quickly moves to defeated and despondent as he is disappointed once again. An actor who gave up artistic success for financial security, yet is trapped as his lifelong fear of penury and the poorhouse mean he cannot enjoy his wealth. Costigan fills the role, perfectly evoking James’s Irish background from the Irish Famine and poverty while delighting in his passion for Shakespeare and his boyish glee as he opens yet another fresh bottle of whisky. He also brings the meanness of an unpredictable drunk who can be despicable to his boys one minute while hugging them the next.

Sam Phillips as Jamie is a beautiful wasted drunk who has learned to be wily and full of self pity and excuses from his addict parents. The true degree of family damage is surely in his final scenes with brother Edmund when he chillingly warns his brother against himself The dead part of me hopes you won’t get well. Lorn MacDonald as Edmund is heart rending as he is in denial about his health and when the worst is confirmed he realises that no one in the family is equipped to support him. Wheezing and glistening with tears and spittle his performance is haunting and raw. This family emotionally flay each other through the course of this long day and MacDonald displays every moment of pain on his pale, anguished face. The only truly cheery spirit is the maid, a lively Dani Heron who is not contaminated by the family dynamics and is happy to join her mistress in a whisky.

This is such a bleak insight into addiction and co-dependency in a family and O’Neill was writing about his own family as the only one still alive. It reminds us all of how the echo of past family stories define the present and often the future. It was one of the last plays he wrote before becoming unable to write due to Parkinson like symptoms affected his hands. There is a brutal irony when he describes his mother’s trembling hands in the play and in recalling her drug addiction at a time when his own wife was also an addict. As Mary says The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future too. This is a family who need to cling on to their tragedies in order to justify their failures.

It speaks as clearly today as it did when first published of the destructive impact of addiction and unresolved grief. Performed in Glasgow and now in Manchester it is doubly pertinent today as both are cities with drug problems and a growing issue of homelessness. As James relates his fear of the poorhouse it is a sobering reminder that in Britain today there are no longer even poorhouses just pavements.

HOME 10 – 26 May

Images by Tim Morozzo

Three Sisters

Royal Exchange Theatre

By Rashdash

After Chekhov

Three Sisters is the latest show from multi-award winning Rashdash and is co-produced with the Royal Exchange Theatre with whom they are Associate Artists. This is a gutsy and vibrant challenging of the narrative conventions of the classics in theatre. In taking a play by Chekhov and experimenting with the form Rashdash are exploring who the classics are aimed at. Do they still have a relevance in theatre today? Who gets what from them and in what’s ways can we alter them to continue to get something powerful and enduring from them?

Why do the men in this play have all of the lines?

Rashdash rip up the script, burn the frumpy black dresses, bare their maidenly breasts, crank up the volume on the piano and add some strings and drums. This is Chekhov in a mash up with Vivienne Westwood and The Slits. This is sexy, vibrant, caustic and clever. Packing a hefty feminist punch and some serious theatrical clout while also remaining playful and whimsical, Three Sisters is truly a thing of joy from start to finish.

These three sisters are not muted and still. They are not passive Barbie dolls but are Action girls in crinolines. There are no sepia tones to this production, instead there is a kaleidoscope of colour. There are frequent moments where tableau scenes are staged then fractured and fragmented as the performers hold up a prism to see women as so much more than pliable, passive vessels to be moulded by male writers into their version of womanhood. These women are messy, imperfect, funny, clever and complex. They have mastered social media as well as the piano. They are cultured and educated with their own opinions, and can also cry in a supermarket and “dance it out” like they’re on Greys Anatomy. They own their own bodies and wear whatever they choose, if they strip off on stage it is their decision and has a function rather than being sexualised. They wear comfy knickers, will massage their perineums with olive oil to avoid tearing in childbirth and will rail against the passage of time as a slow, slow bastard cunt!

Performance is meshed with music,song and movement so there is always a sense of flux and change. Even in moments where there is a static snapshot of stillness there will be music or the movement of a statue or the TICKTOCK digital display flashing. Nothing stays the same. The scenes are constantly shifting as the pile of disguarded clothing gets bigger as if to say plays like bodies can be dressed or styled in an endless array of guises. The nod to Shakespeare in some of the fashion choices is a witty reminder of just how many of our classic plays were written by men and are now being revisited from a female perspective- most recently Othello at Liverpool’s Everyman.

Rashdash are all accomplished musicians and with the addition of Chloe Rianna on drums and Yoon-Ji Kim on violin and synth, they move through a range of styles from classical to trippy, punk and blues. The soundscape is as varied as the costumes and the women on stage. Olga Helen Goalen, Masha Abbi Greenland and Irena Becky Willie all sing, and they all deliver whether alluding to mainstream pop Adele and Katy Perry or spitting out a punk lyric or belting out a torch song. The lyrics are mercilessly clever, and often wickedly funny. All three deliver strong performances that have an essence of each sister.

This production works across enough levels to be a success whether you know the original or not. A Chekhov aficionado will get the references to their mother’s broken clock or the spinning top given to Irena. They will see the irony of Olga idly wishing she was more able to do something about homelessness when of course the sisters are about to lose their family home. Whereas fresh eyes see a topical issue being raised that they have probably walked past on their way to the theatre. The haze of smoke alludes to the nearby town on fire but could just as easily refer to Grenfell Towers. Masha can be a modern woman dealing with heartbreak by swiping Tinder or a sister in an unhappy marriage seeking solace within an army garrison.

Moments on stage such as Masha reading out multiple reviews of the original play or being literally squashed by volumes of the classics poke fun at our obsession with the relative safety of tradition in theatre while reminding us of the need for joyfully subversive new works. Rashdash pull back the curtains and fill the stage with fresh air and new opportunities. Three Sisters can challenge existing lovers of the classics and bring new vibrant audiences to look at established works. The Royal Exchange Theatre is currently also showing The Cherry Orchard on it’s main stage. Like a beautifully deconstructed cheesecake on Masterchef Three Sisters is a brilliant take on the original classic.

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester 3rd -19th May

The Yard, London 22 May – 9 June

Tobacco Factory, Bristol 12 -16 June

Images by Richard Davenport

Othello

Everyman, Liverpool

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Gemma Bodinetz

In this new production of Othello the past and present collide. A hand-embroidered hankerchief and a smartphone symbolise our human need to love and be loved, to accept and be accepted; and the destructive power of betrayal and fake news. Director Gemma Bodinetz and the repertory company at the Everyman have produced an Othello that is absolutely fresh and timeless. There is no sense of the frustration of a 400 year old play being shoehorned to appease or entice a modern audience. It just works from start to finish. The much heralded casting of Golda Rosheuvel as a female Othello is both exciting and intriguing. However this becomes at times almost irrevelant as it is the emotional depth and intensity of her performance that stand out as the most pertinert aspects of this casting choice.

Golda Rosheuvel is Othello as an army General that is female, black and gay. She is successful, respected and courageous. It could have been so obvious to play her Othello as a butch lesbian with a crew cut and and a jutting jaw. Instead we see a strong, intelligent woman who has the quiet certainty of being in love and feeling loved. She is not large in physical stature and is womanly whether in battle fatigues or a simple flowing gown. She is measured and reflective in all areas of her life until confronted by Iago whose thwarted ambition and jealous vilification of others conspire to destroy her faith in love and honour.

Patrick Brennan is undeniably effective as the charming manipulator dripping his poison with all the reasonableness and solicitation of a corrupt politician at a General Election. His Iago is odious as he reveals his plans to the audience and truly terrifying in his own certainty regarding his actions. He is the epitome of the reasonable white man hellbent on obliterating anyone who is “other”, as he moves around the stage spitting honeyed venom like Trump on Twitter.

Cerith Flinn plays Cassio as a taut, muscled squaddie with a heart of gold whether fighting honourably on the battlefied, carousing with a bottle in hand or wooing the winsome Bianca – a delightfully comedic Leah Gould. His Cassio is a fitting replacement for Othello as a young soldier with a pure heart and good intentions.

Emily Hughes performance is fresh and vivid. She combines girlish delicacy and youth with gritty determination to seek out fairness and equality for others. She is fair and beautiful but her character is what really defines why Othello loves her. She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them.

The swift unravelling of Othello’s calm reason into jealous, vengeful rage might seem at odds with this professional soldier and loving wife. Iago has broken the implicit trust essential between comrades on the battlefield and partners in a happy marriage. The result is a tortured woman stricken with epilepsy and deep emotional trauma. A modern take on this might well be an Othello suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) who is battle scarred and reacting to new trauma with paranoia, dissociative seizures and the hyperarousal of murderous rage.

The final scenes played out in a floaty, white gauze bedchamber are gut wrenchingly poignant. This gossamer veil highlights the ephemeral nature of life and gives a dreamlike softness to both the brutality and the tenderness of the murder scene. Such betrayal and heartbreak plays out and the emotional struggle for Othello is palpable. Even knowing the end of this 400 year old play, expectations feel suspended as if on a heartbeat the outcome might still go either way.

At pivotal points the audience are spotlit by powerful searchlights or the beam of a single torch. On reflection it feels like an invitation by Shakespeare and also by Bodinetz to look at ourselves and those around us and reflect on what we see. Perhaps there is an invitation to start accepting ourselves- regardless of gender or ethnicity as all being capable of strong and powerful emotions. That does not have to be dangerous when we recognise they can make us protective, nurturing parents, successful and happy in our relationships and productive in our work. It is only when we use labels to divide and diminish that we lessen ourselves and our humanity. Like Othello – male, female or gender neutral we are perfectly imperfect. No more and never any less.

OTHELLO Sat 28 April to Tues 10th July

Images by Jonathon Keenan

The Cherry Orchard

royal exchange theatre - harry oliver (grisha) - the cherry orchard-1848559962..jpgRoyal Exchange Theatre

By Anton Chekhov

Translation by Rory Mullarkey

Directed by Michael Boyd

Rory Mullarkey and Michael Boyd are the first Russian speaking Translator/Director team to pool their skills and mutual love of Chekhov to create a new British translation of The Cherry Orchard since Michael Frayn in the Eighties. The result is a success that retains and celebrates the comedic elements while also balancing the tragedy and loss from the past with the fears and hopes of a dawning new age. Little actually happens in this play but it is always engrossing as obvious outcomes and solutions are evaded in favour of unsolved problems and enigmas. Chekhov was a doctor as well as a writer and in this, his last play there are acute observations of the human condition but no diagnosis.

The most striking element of Tom Piper’s design for this production is the starkness of the set. Apart from a few falling blossoms the audience are left to imagine the lush white blooms in an orchard that is the one remarkable thing in this entire province. The once grand house is also left to the imagination as the set is a huge expanse of bare wooden floor, a single chair an occasional table and a hundred year old bookcase. The wooden floor dominates as if it hints at what will become of the soon to be felled cherry trees. It is like a blank canvas awaiting a fresh start having probably been stripped of its plush furnishings to meet the mounting debts. When Uncle Leonid makes an impassioned speech to the bookcase it is both ridiculous and poignant as it represents the grandeur of a fast diminishing lifestyle.

Despite the bareness of the stage this is a production that is full of imagery and references to colour. The orchard is the white of Lyubov’s girlish summer gown, the white of torn up telegrams, and old money. The white of a ghostly balloon moon and of innocence and purity. The blacks and greys of duty, servility and squashed hope is there in Firs’ uniform and Vavara’s drab clothing. The cherry pink of Lyubov’s velvet dress is the pink of ripened sexuality and the cherry jam of yesteryear. The yellow gold of Lopakhin’s polished shoes alluding to the brassy nature of new money. The casting choices also make a provocative colour statement about history of slaves/serfs and masters. All the family in the house are white actors while the staff or children of serfs are all actors from other ethnicities. Emma Cains also cleverly uses the trajectory of the costumes styling to reflect the move from the past towards a new age and new freedoms.

There are some especially strong performances with Kirsty Bushell as Madame Lyubov deftly portraying the fragility of a woman seared by grief whose party girl approach to heartache keeps her constantly on the move like a beautiful butterfly. This is a woman whose husband died of champagne while her little son Grisha drowned on the estate a mere six months later. Seemingly careless and insouciant she flirts and flits around giving out gold to strangers when she is about to lose her family home. If kisses were roubles this family would be debt free. At moments when her gaiety fractures Bushell is raw with tangible pain. The scene where Grisha is on the chaise longue beautifully captures the fractures in Lyubov’s life -a mother mourning at her son’s funeral wake bleeds into a riotous house party. Rosy McEwen as the disappointed and disillusioned Vavara is as pale and luminous as the haunting moon. The restraint and delicacy of her performance is beautifully balanced as she yearns to be both a wife and a nun. Jude Owusu as Lopakhin is a seamless blend of arrogant new money and success with hints of an awkward lovelorn son of a serf. A self made man who is rightly proud of his achievements yet is tongue tied and paralyzed to speak his feelings.

The threads of the past, present and future are ever present. Ancient butler Firs can only remember the past but will be the last living soul in this house. The child haunts the house in timeless fashion observing everything silently. New love affairs begin, old ones may start again and some remain as simply frustrated yearnings. Chekhov throws up possibilities like blossom petals and this production casts them up in the air with real love and delicacy.

Royal Exchange Theatre 19 April-19th May

Images Seamus Ryan

Corrido de la Sangre

HOME

The Tiger Lillies

Director Mark Holthusen

Writer Pedar Bjurman

Music and Lyrics Martyn Jacques

The Tiger Lillies have been delighting and possibly revolting audiences for nearly 30 years. This “anarchic Brechtian street opera trio” are Grammy nominated, world class purveyors of unapologetically deviant and defiant shows. Commissioned by HOME, Manchester, Corrido de la Sangre is a vivid, glorious celebration of the rip roaring circus that is the Mexican Day of the Dead. Ruthless and gruesome no one escapes unscathed as this dark and gleeful trio play their twisted tunes.

Three musicians on a stage within a stage, pasted in garish make up and suitably clad to evoke their long dead characters, this corrido band rises from hell to play again and tell the ghastly tale of their demise. From the opening number it is clear that this is no grotesque parody but is a high calibre, darkly anarchic cabaret.

The band are skilled musicians playing a range of instruments from piano and ukulele – Martyn Jacques to upright bass and musical saw – Adrian Stout and Jonas Galland on a range of drums. Martyn Jacques sings with a laconic and dispassionate falsetto that can be pure and sweet or acid sharp and vitriolic. At times it feels like Dave Vanien from The Damned has met Noel Coward in the catacombs and formed some unholy musical alliance with a mariachi band.

The lyrics of each song drive the narrative along with vivid imagery that is not for the mawkish or easily offended. Orphan is sweetly plaintive and poignant, La Bruja mournful and haunting while Scarface is a shocking and visceral description of the ghastly disfiguring of a young women. I bought the soundtrack and I’m still humming along to the bizarrely upbeat Good Doctor and the haunting Borderland.

Visually it is gorgeous. The staging is intimate, and the combination of projections, shadow puppetry and papercut artwork create a constant feeling of wonderment as reveal after reveal alters the staging like a kaleidoscope and creates a sense of the performance being peeled back through the years like Russian dolls unfolding in size. The backdrop gives a sense of the decaying splendour of old Mexico and the ragged holes suggest the disintegration of cloth like flesh from a corpse. The projection of colours and shapes from fiesta lace and flowers to the gold of icons weeping blood to Mexican skies and flames of hell is visually stunning. It evokes the magical realism of Frida Kahlo but with the scale of Diego Rivera folk art murals. Director Mark Holthusen has created a beautiful visual spectacle that pulsates like a vast beautiful beating heart.

As the good doctor says – Once you are in, you can never get out. Leaving the performance at HOME last night I was tempted to ask for a lock in and for the deadly trio to rise again and sing another corrido.

At HOME 20th April – 5th May

Viva

The Tiger Lillies

Images by Jonathon Keenan

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE : A play with music

EVERYMAN

Written by Anthony Burgess

Directed by Nick Bagnall

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to watch a rehearsal of A Clockwork Orange taking place in The International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. It was quite fascinating to watch this young repertory company test out ideas and work on songs and choreography with director Nick Bagnall and choreographer Etta Murfitt. It was abundantly clear that this was a project spilling over with fresh juice and with no sign of any element being coldly mechanized. Thankfully this production has reached perfect fruition with its wonderfully, pithy songs and dialogue from Burgess, and excellent full bodied performances from the cast.

The staging looks startlingly simple with its neon lighting and milk white cube structure. Some of the cast are already on stage all clad in white. It is sleek, clean and pure in its sterility. As the music floods in and Alex starts to conduct there is so much beauty on stage it scarcely matters that he is conducting with a flick-knife rather than a baton. In the blink of an eye the floor can open up with options for grand entrances and dramatic or comic exits. Molly Lacey Davies and Jocelyn Meall have designed a set that is deceptively simple but is a treasure trove creating a myriad of moods and settings. The aversion therapy scenes are visually quite stunning. They are visceral and shocking and evoke something akin to Christ on the cross with Alex wearing the dystopian equivalent of a crown of thors as he looks down on the horrors mankind is capable off.

The Everyman Company take on a multitude of characters and breathe life and authenticity into them. There is a bloodied rape victim tied with vivid blue clothesline cord, Deltoid evoking a saturnine Alastair Sims, the writer F.Alexander is bludgeoned and his beloved wife is viciously assaulted. Amongst the brutality there are also moments of vaudevillian humour with little gems of Elvis type lookalikes, puppet wielding government ministers, and allusions to Jimmy Saville wearing a I’m a Pedo medallion and clutching a fat cigar. Alex and his Droogs are relentless in their thirst for life and all of its juice. Nothing in life, bar the music of Beethoven appears to be sacred.

Burgess created an intriguing and provocative hero who is thuggish yet also cultured and intelligent. George Caple brings a freshness and energy to Alex making his character always likable regardless of his monstrous crimes. The scenes during his treatment with the Ludovico Technique are deeply moving and hard to watch. Watching him in those scenes was chilling and reminded me of speaking to prisoners from Park Lane Hospital who went through similar classical conditioning procedures and covert sensitisation for crimes of sexual violence in the 1980s.

Richard Bremmer is always charismatic on stage whether he is threatening as Deltoid, delivering a wonderful ruddy, drunken priest or strolling across stage in a tiny satin robe with a curly pigs tail. Liam Tobin embodies the earnest writer F Alexander, and sings beautifully as he poignantly mourns his wife. Zelina Rebeiro is always engaging and especially so as she transforms into a sulty temptress to haunt a traumatized Alex. Phil Rayner from Young Everyman Playhouse(YEP) has really grown in confidence and created some great comic moments.

Nick Bagnall has honoured this play with music ensuring that the vision Burgess had in 1986 is finally realised on stage. The songs are a gleeful celebration of music hall tradition. The musicality of the lyrics make the Russian/Cockney slang of the Nadsat seem instantly more accessible and reminiscent of the joy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The use of musician and percussionist Peter Mitchell is inspired and really adds to the look of the piece as well as the sound, in that he evokes all the youth and energy of another Droog.

A Clockwork Orange asks us to look at the power of choice. Is it better be bad of one’s own free will than be good through scientific brainwashing? In a world where we are all at risk of brainwashing through the daily assault of the internet it is vital to be challenged and reminded of how we exercise our own free will. This piece is brutally violent and yet also angelic at times. The cast move around the audience as they come and go, and address us directly at times, even inviting us to applaud the outcome of Alex’s aversion treatment. As we applaud we are of course colluding with the destruction of choice; it is a relief when Alex finally reverts to his old ways and finds his own way to redemption.

Burgess said “I do not like this book as much as others I have written. I have kept it, till recently, in an unopened jar- marmalade, a preserve on a shelf, rather than an orange on a dish.” I hope that he would approve of the vibrant juicy nature of this production.

At Everyman 14 April to 12 July

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation

MINEFIELD

HOME

Written and Directed by Lola Arias

A LIFT production

A leading voice in Argentinean theatre Lola Arias has created something quite extraordinary with Minefield. Bringing together on a stage, six veterans of The Falklands War who do not speak each other’s language and who were facing each other on the battlefield in 1982. This theatrical venture is itself a potential minefield as it is a piece of lived history representing their individual, unique experiences of the war. This is not theatre retelling the history of either a war, a country, or of particular regiments in specific battles but it is a deeply personal sharing of what it is like to live through a war and forever carry the emotional consequences like a permanent kit bag.

The six men are all now veterans in their fifties. David Jackson spent the war listening and transcribing codes while sometimes keeping one ear tuned to Tony Hancock on BBC World Service. He is now a psychologist counselling veterans having himself suffered PSTD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Lou Armour was front page news in both countries when taken prisoner in The Falklands at the outbreak of the war on 2nd April 1982 . Now he teaches children with learning difficulties and may have caught the acting bug. Sukrim Rai was one of the reknown Gurkhas who now works as a security guard and can finally live in the U.K.

The Argentinians are Ruben Otero who survived 41 freezing hours in a lifeboat after the ARA General Belgrano was sunk. He wears a t shirt stating the Malvinas belong to Argentina and plays in a successful Beatles tribute band. Gabriel Sagastume was a reluctant soldier who is now a criminal lawyer and is absorbed by details of the war. Marcelo Vallejo was a mortar direction controller, who struggled with PTSD and depression. He survived addiction and a suicide attempt by drowning. After support and treatment he learned to swim and is now a successful triathlon champion.

The reality is they are neither heroes or monsters but just a group of guys sent to do a job. The major difference between them is language and the overhead subtitles are a constant reminder of how differences can be overcome.

The men’s stories are told in chapters using a range of techniques. The use of rubber masks effectively put Margaret Thatcher and General Galtieri on stage. Screen projections show the exquisite minutiae of love letters to Gabriel’s wife or tiny airfix soldiers on a map retelling a story of hungry men pinching food from a farm and being blown up by a land mine. A tiny plastic leg in a stripe sock evokes the remains of a lost friend and comrade. Front page images from GENTE in Argentina show Lou after his capture. Powerful usage of sound includes the sound recording of the actual jet fighters that nearly killed David and his comrades. At other times the men become a group singing and playing guitar and drums together. There is the light relief of a squaddie’s disco or the thundering drum solo of Ruben whose shouts for help went unheeded for 41 hours. An Argentinian wallet gratefully given to a fearsome Gurkha who felt it was better to capture than kill. The poignancy of Marcelo donning the battered cape he retrieved from the Malvinas 27 years later. A close up of Lou as he remembers the death of a young soldier who in speaking English as his dying words has haunted Lou ever since.

A therapy session between David and Marcelo is a powerful reminder of how this piece has worked as group therapy for these men. Cathartic at times and also re-opening old wounds on occasions such as April 2nd, the Argentinian Remembrance day. The skill of this piece is to never preach but to seek to share, reflect and understand how our past informs our present. As a psychotherapist I appreciate the delicate balance that Lola Arias has created and maintained in this group therapy approach to this piece of unique verbatim theatre.

Minefield has brought together six men who are united by sharing the same experience of losing friends and leaving them behind on a rocky, unforgiving landscape. This war lasted ten weeks according to Google, but for these men it was 74 days because each day mattered just as each life lost, injured or mentally scarred mattered. They mattered then and they still matter now. As they perform their last song together they unite as a potent force asking their audience,

What would you fight for? Would you go to war?…..Have you ever killed anyone?… Have you watched a friend die?

The final words are from Sukrim in his native language. Translated they simply and wisely say,

Killing is never winning. Fight with the pen NOT with the bullet!! If the pen wins, fine… If not, nobody is killed.

HOME

Viva! Spanish and Latin American Festival 2018

LIFT Festival 2018

All images by Tristram Kenton