Whilst the boys of G Company may be experiencing monotony in Hawaii, this word cannot be applied to the long-anticipated revival of Tim Rice’s and Stuart Brayson’s From Here to Eternity. This show is a spectacular work of heart, where there’s something for everyone, whether it is the historical setting or the fierce examples of friendship and love that we see play out.
A spectacular work of heart
Set two weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, From Here to Eternity follows the G Company boys stationed in Hawaii as they prepare for a boxing championship. Starting with the arrival of Prewitt (Jonathan Bentley), we are given an intimate look into the relationships and motivations of the soldiers as they deal with the everyday monotony, military hierarchy and relationships that threaten to break them in different ways. From Brett Smock’s direction we can see the strain that the waiting has on the characters, creating almost a sense of futility as the attack on Pearl Harbour draws nearer, indicated by the accompanying projections. This never translates to a sense of resignation as the actors beat against the constraints that their characters face.
Altogether the atmosphere and technical aspects of the show are an exercise in subtlety; we are constantly reminded of the setting and the thematic undertones of the show that overshadow everything else. From the physical intensity and detail of Cressida Carré’s choreography to the multifunctional simplicity of Stewart J. Charlesworth’s setthere is no room left for doubt of the kind of brutal masculinity and conformity that exists on the base. Adam King’s lighting design makes creative use of color, from the green that adds a foreboding to the cast’s regimented movement in the titular song, From Here to Eternity, to the contrasting blue and yellow in At Ease and I’ll Remember that Day, linking the characters of Warden and Karen (Carley Stenson) in their solos.
There’s a timelessness to Brayson’s score that Nick Barstow’s musical direction and arrangements have kept, whilst adding almost a jauntiness or whimsy; a brightness in a score that is immersed in genres like the blues or rock in which angst is palpable in every note. The score has adapted and brought new depth to these characters, and Rice has once again found words that mean more than we hear on the surface. In this Herculean feat, Rice and Brayson have accomplished what many may have thought impossible; cracked open the US Army, and shown us the humanity of its individuals against the ruthlessness of the collective and the conflicts that exist as a result.
Bonds are forged in fire, and we can see that in the boys of G Company as the cast bolsters each other up. Weaving in and out of their collective and individual roles, this cast exceeds the boundaries of the tropes that we are used to seeing in art set during wartime- the defiant soldier, the soldier that struggles with his sense of duty, the prositute/madam with a cold exterior and heart of gold - and make them their own. Bentley humanizes the GI Joe-ness of Prewitt in a way that exceeds the bounds of the defiance he shows. There’s real love and earnestness in his performance that gives us reasons to root for him beyond the centrality of the character. With an impeccable Brooklyn accent, Jonny Amies’ portrayal of Maggio is incredibly complex, full of hidden depth as he navigates the twists of Maggio’s character, personality and socio-political commentary. Despite his initial impish and mischevious performance, there is a real sense of injustice and anger that simmers below the surface of the jester-like character as he mouths off to the officers, which bursts out in full force during I Love the Army, a song that speaks to the heart of this musical. Warden is a complicated character, and Adam Rhys-Charles walks the line between soldier and officer, showing us the character's internal struggle between duty and love through micro-expressions as he balances the conflict brewing inside the character, using one to inform his portrayal of the other. This struggle is epitomised in At Ease, an off-beat, jazz-style song whose melody subtlety rocks as if we were standing on a boat at sea, being lulled and ever so slightly hypnotized by Rhys-Charles’ crooning.
In this show about a military base, you would think that the women would take a more secondary role, but neither Smock’s direction nor Stenson, Desmonda Cathabel (Lorene) and Eve Polycarpou’s (Mrs Kipfer) portrayal of their characters suggest it. Through these characters, the three actresses show incredible strength, and take control of the situation that they're in. Their roles are seemingly derived from tropes, but their performances are anything but, and we can see parallels between all three. The same bitterness of Cathabel’s shell that hides the warmth of her performance, as seen in Run Along Joe, is present in Stenson’s Karen, suggesting that they are separate parts of a collective experience. There is sheer determination in Stenson’s portrayal that is unquantifiable, as can be seen in I’ll Remember the Day, and the defiance she shows is utterly stellar.
This snapshot of military life holds up a mirror to conversations about masculinity, class and the sheer flaws in the insitution that are as relevant now as they were 80 years ago. Everything about From Here To Eternity is simply beautiful, from the characters to the narrative and the themes, and the creative team has done an absolutely amazing job bringing this tale to life.