A Family Beyond The Army shines a human and compassionate light on the many men and women who hold families and daily lives together awaiting news of their loved one far away. It follows the story of a soldier (Paul Innes) as he finds love with a local girl (Mai Cunningham) who lives with her ever watchful mother (Gerry Fleming). There is also a discharged sergeant (Colin Graham), the husband of Cunningham’s best friend (Kathryn Debbage). Innes floats in and out of Cunningham’s life as he serves in various deployments. As life goes on at home, facing up to marriage and parenthood, it’s Innes’ absence that puts intolerable strain on the relationship. The play shows this in a highly compassionate way. The story builds towards a very moving finale that is brought vividly to life thanks to Cunningham’s wonderful acting.
The entire small cast turnin very polished performances that demonstrate their keen understanding of the subject matter. The production has been devised from a collection of writings and an adaption of an original story. It’s a testament to those who really are left behind - who have given their stories freely - to allow this show to take on such a human and, above all, compassionate feeling.
The only thing pulling the show down is the very claustrophobic feeling of a tiny stage that is overloaded with three large wooden window frames and watching the actors trying to slide past them really distracts and stunters the flow and pace of the piece. There is a fine line in intimate theatre where a production will work or indeed won’t. It’s the quality of the acting which ensures this production can rise above the difficulties of its set.
Skilled direction from Amy Skilling, an engrossing and involving script and acting of the highest magnitude ensure this is one play which will quite rightly live long the memory.