This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com
Gene David Kirk never quite gets round to explaining the significance of the title of his new one act play. Does he mean “today”? If so, it is good to report that the obliqueness in the title is not replicated in the writing, which is vivid, descriptive and, at times, even poetic. The writer draws on his own experiences in the military and bases his play on actual events, a collection of memories and feelings which he binds together not to tell a single coherent story, but to convey haunting images and contrasting emotions. The setting is an unspecified far away trouble spot where Britain is part of a United Nations peace keeping force. Ian (Ben Carpenter) is a young officer and John (Matthew Schmolle) belongs to the lower ranks. We first meet them as they both describe to the audience the same horrific incident as they would have seen it, interrupting and talking over each other. This proves to be a very effective device for establishing the characters, their backgrounds and their differing perceptions. Ian is middle class, well educated and sensitive, John is working class with a more down-to-earth outlook. The performances of both actors fit the profiles perfectly. What we do not realise at first is the connection between the two, but fleeting touches and affectionate glances begin to reveal the nature of their friendship and then, in the play’s most moving scene, Ian finds a letter amongst John’s belongings in which he expresses feelings that he cannot bring himself to speak. Ian does not reveal that he has seen the letter, but simply writes at the bottom of it “me too and then some”. The subtlety with which the relationship is developed magnifies its impact immeasurably. Institutional homophobia in the military is touched upon in the character of Simon (Nicholas Waters), who callously demeans local women for his own gratification and boasts about it to Paul (River Hawkins), a rookie that he takes under his wing. However, this is not a play with a political agenda and exposing bigotry is incidental to its purpose. It becomes clear that the writer’s real aim is to contrast the tenderness of the affection between his two central characters with the dehumanising brutality of modern warfare. The contrast is stark and, helped by imaginative staging, the play achieves its objectives fully. This production delivers a riveting 70 minutes of theatre. In choosing his own play to begin his tenure as Artistic Director of the Drayton Arms, Gene David Kirk has done well. Good luck to him for the future.
Performance date: 8 May 2014