Monday, May 30, 2016

Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme. 

A play by Frank McGuinness on at the (gorgeous) Citizens Theatre just now. A co-production between the Citizens, the wonderful Abbey Theatre, Headlong and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. I'm guessing it's touring.

This was a weird experience. 

I am certain that remembering World War One (and Two) is vitally important. So I do lean towards books, plays, films that reflect on what happened. It feels the least I can do. 

I continue sad to have missed a scheduled trip to an NTS show called The 306 last week on account of the child's choir. BS will hopefully be writing about it here soon. 

So I expected to like this Sons of Ulster show very much. 

Lights up. And I've not experienced this very often but I instantly hated it.

A man with wild white hair in loose pyjamas drifted about the stage. A big lump on stone in the background. He made no reference to the stone but it seemed to be carved into an exquisite lumpen shape but it was hard to see what the shape might be. He spoke about the difficulty of forgetting the past for quite a long time. In all fairness, I found it hard to listen as instead, I was thinking angrily about the perils of writing a play when you're used to writing a book and then thinking angrily about what I could be more usefully doing with my time instead.  

Luckily, after a little while, some soldiers in the uniform of the first world war appeared silently from the wings and crept silently around our pyjama-d protagonist, weapons at the ready. Lots of atmospheric smoke. 

At last (it seemed), the lights went out. Up again.  A nice sunny day. A young soldier pottering about. New recruits arriving to their new accommodation having freshly enlisted. Pyjamas nowhere to be seen. The lump of artful stone gone. Normal service resumed. The story began.

The story itself was troubling. Disparate men. They don't all get on. They go and fight. They bond. Massive dollops of religous-inspired antagonism.  An illicit gay relationship. Some (reasonable) anxiety about impending danger. Cut together in chronological order to show how they started out disparate but became friends who cared very much about each other. This strand of the story was as nicely told as the script permitted. 

But nonetheless, I didn't care very much about any of them. Even the eccentric laugh in the face of danger posh greyhound breeding whyever is he here in the first place man. Who inevitably turned out to be the man in the pyjamas.

The redeeming feature by a million marched miles was the set. Which was gorgeous. Replete with atmosphere and brooding menace. Lump of artful stone aside. Clever use of levels. Perspective. The lighting was gorgeous. Just wonderful. The whole curiously dispassionate story looked stunning. 

But that didn't quite make up for the fact that when these poor guys finally got to go over to the top, having finally (and it wasn't a long play - it just felt it) arrived at the Somme,  I almost wished they'd get on with it.


Post a Comment

<< Home