Timed to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands War, PACM and Achilles Entertainment stage this drama, set on the islands during the height of the conflict. Sandra (Georgina Sutton) is ex-pat British, having given up the hustle and bustle of UK life for a sheep farm. The play is set in her farmhouse, which is also being used as temporary accommodation for some of the British soldiers. Events take an unforeseen course when a captured mercenary is discovered to originate from the United States yet fighting for the Argentineans. The production is beefed up with the enlistment of Charlie Clements to the cast, he of former Eastenders fame in the shape of Bradley Branning; but even with his inclusion, it failed to captivate.
Much of the content of the first act revolves around the sub-society the soldiers have created in Sandra’s home and in particular, the relationship between an ineffective Sergeant and his over-bearing, cocky Lance Corporal. This point is laboured and becomes weary, making it difficult to relate to either of them. Twenty year old Stanley Eldridge convincingly plays the antagonistic perma-tanned Lance Jack Adam Ziller though, but I just struggled to accept that the Sergeant would allow such relentless bullying from a lower rank in the thick of wartime. Ian Sharp’s Sergeant Toby Spiers is one of the dullest characters I’ve come across in a play for a long time, I’m unsure if this is a directorial decision or down to Sharp but the result is a desolation of charisma and therefore lack of empathy.
One redeeming feature is Alexander Wolfe as the somewhat dim-witted Private Lee Finch whose acting provides a ray of sunshine to an otherwise bleak prospect, I shall look out for him in the future. The other private, played by Charlie Clements, is scarcely seen during the first act and is unmemorable during the second, despite the writer Meredith Oakes including the familiar staples of sex and murder to invigorate the story.
Overall, a disappointment; the theme is very much of interest but the lack of a decent, credible storyline left me flagging too many times. If you choose to pay a visit, be aware that the production contains a lot of adult language.
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By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
23rd May to 16th June 2012
Courtyard Theatre, London, N1.
Well now, this is pretty good! The same venue that hosted the outstanding The Trip to Bountiful now brings you a “new British rock musical”, which is well worth going out of your way for. The concept of youths doing a rock-based musical theatre show might not sound very appealing, but take it from a cynic - there’s potential and vivacity in this production.
As far as plots go, it’s fairly straightforward. Girl meets Boy is extended to Girl with New Boy meets Ex, Ex who furthermore doesn’t speak, set to a backdrop of hazy days gone by and also featuring a present-day late twenty-er moaning about the state of life in Britain. This is all set to a slush-rock score and styling from rock night at the X-factor.
The musical content is strong. From a good start it keeps growing in appeal and by the end would justify an encore the cast seemed too shy to deliver. Furthermore, Tim Prottey-Jones’ score keeps the attention whilst being deft enough to tell a story seriously.
Few casts give their teamwork the energy that this production involves. Passionate about doing their all, I have rarely seen a group so finely balanced in performance. There are no weak singers, though each in their own way will grow into their parts as this show beds in, each with a little work to do. But their preparation and rehearsal has been thorough, evidenced by their tellingly good awareness throughout.
Take ‘Wolf’ (Greg Oliver), for instance. First impressions were not totally convincing, but there developed flashes of intensity and security of accent that led to compelling moments of drama, at times mingling with outstanding vocal delivery. By the time bromance was swapped for the unconvincing romance, I was engaged at every moment. I can’t not mention the outstanding crescendo on the proceedings that hearing Michael (Liam Doyle) sing for the first time brought on.
With regret I can’t say every aspect blew me away. There’s a lazy untidiness in set design that seems ill-conceived and cheapens the show. Furthermore every now and then the acting turns dodgy for a moment, my lowlight being the scene where the grown-up Michael is blasted in vigorous silence by his mother as his younger self croons away behind them. Then there are the backing singers, who sing well but are lost away, distracting the eye like a tennis match crowd when the show carries on in front of them. However, this is minor stuff, blips that will work for others and may work out over time, though the airport flexi-barriers truly have to go…
It is great to hear British accents powerfully delivering accessible contemporary British writing, which exceeds the genre’s rock epithet. There’s a confidence in this production which sparkles with growth and I am sure that in the weeks to come things will only mature further.
My advice? Do it, and ignore the insane hideousness of Old Street on the way there.
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By Piero McCarthy
31st January - 25th February 2012
Courtyard Theatre, London, N1.