In Loyal Company (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 16, 2018 in Theatre

Writer and performer: David William Bryan


here are too many stories of heroism in past wars for us to take in. We know that the true cost of all conflicts can only be counted in terms of lives lost or damaged, but, in most cases, the individual endeavours of ordinary men and women caught up in them can only be related by passing them down through generations within families. It is such a family connection that gives David William Bryan’s account of the wartime experiences of his great uncle “Joe” its potency.

Young Arthur (familiarly known as Joe) Robinson is just starting work as a packer in 1941. when German bombing of Merseyside docks destroys buildings near his Birkenhead home and takes the life of a close friend. His immediate response is to join up, leaving behind a close-knit family and the girl who is the apple of his eye, regretting that he had not been able to summon up the courage to ask her to dance..

Joe is attached to a Reconnaissance unit, sailing the globe in relatively peaceful waters until, fatefully, he arrives in Singapore at the exact time of the Japanese invasion. He is taken as a prisoner of war, to be deployed in the infamous construction of the Burma Railway. Most of us have seen The Bridge on the River Kwai at some time, so tales of the unbearable suffering of British captives contain nothing new, but Bryan’s athletic and heartfelt performance as Joe makes them freshly engrossing.

This is a story of great courage and of friends and family. Joe’s unlikely friendship with George, a well-educated toff is made moving and real and his family’s devotion touches the heart. His mother’s attempts to get some news of her son’s whereabouts from the War Ministry are thwarted because she gives them the name Joe rather than Arthur, typifying the touches of comic irony that permeate the story. It is the sobering thought that Joe is just one of many ordinary working class heroes, with nothing particularly special about him, that makes this show so special.

Performance date: 6 August 2018

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

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