For Queen and Country

For Queen and Country. That’s why Jamie Robson joins the British Army at the age of twenty-one. Actually, for the Queen and his brother. Though not his life plan, when the decision is made he pursues it wholeheartedly. He progresses through interviews, goes to boot camp, and flies to Afghanistan - where he commences his deployment, experiences battle and endures life in a war zone. From time to time he receives letters from his wife and mother.

This performance from Checkmate Productions is mildly entertaining, but it’s unlikely to ‘shock you and leave you thinking about the current conflicts in the Middle East’ as the publicity suggests.

Writer/actor Gabriel Owen invests a lot of energy into creating the role of Jamie for a only a small return. When not seated with his letters he constantly paces around the stage in some sort of adrenalin-fuelled frenzy. This would be appropriate in some scenes but seems to apply to every situation he is in. The speed of movement matches his delivery of lines. There are few changes in pace or modulations of tone: it’s all frantic and blurted out. All movement needs to be thought through more carefully. This includes the awkward stepping back and forth used to establish the location of the two characters in the implausible parade ground scene.

In contrast, the scenes in which his mother and wife vocalise the letters he reads are static. These characters – played by Juliette O’Connor and Alexandra Ackland-Snow – walk on, sometimes touch him, recite and walk off. They are difficult roles in which to invest any depth, and the exposition could have been covered in other ways without making two people redundant for most of the play. The recorded news reports and comments from the Prime Minister about the conflict appropriately set the scene and successfully provide scene-break interludes.

Meanwhile, a note on expletives. These become redundant and often embarrassing when used in excess. Creatively charged and aptly descriptive adjectives, combined with inventive and focused abuse where necessary, enhance a script. It’s as simple as that.

This performance from Checkmate Productions is mildly entertaining, but it’s unlikely to ‘shock you and leave you thinking about the current conflicts in the Middle East’ as the publicity suggests. There are far more profound and thought-provoking plays on this subject than For Queen and Country, which does not garner a place of honour in the repertoire. 

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

This one hour fast-paced monologue follows 21-year-old Jamie Robson’s journey as a private in the British army in their final year of conflict against the Taliban in Afghanistan. His experiences push him to the limit as the effect places a strain not only on himself but also on his relationships with his mum and fiancée as they swap letters during his tour abroad. This production will entertain you, shock you and leave you thinking about the current conflicts in the Middle East.

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