Minefield

As I've said before, whilst important times in history demand to be explored in theatre and film – and often bring raw emotion with them the more recent the history is – subject matter alone shouldn’t get in the way of our judgment on how good a production is in itself. Whilst a funeral speech may bring us to tears, it doesn't necessarily mean it has been performed well. However, when in Minefield, you're faced by real veterans from both sides of the Falklands war, telling their real stories, sharing their real memories and showing their real photographs from the time, then separating that judgment isn't an easy task.

A moving and interesting documentary experience

The six men – three who fought on the British side (including one Gurkha) and three who wanted to keep the Malvinas – retell the history through their own very different first-hand experiences, all in their native language (with surtitles constantly on show). For the main part, the narrative is held together as they share what they discovered about themselves and each other during the rehearsals for the play – from different ways of being enlisted to being in the last arm to arm combat war of our time. They don’t pertain to be actors – and they're not. Any theatricality is nuts and bolts stuff – real photos on an overhead projector, a pub-style tribute band wheeling drum sets on and off to rock out, close-up video projected on screen upstage. The style makes it very simple for them to share their stories quite didactically and only jars when they move more towards theatrical 'scenes' such as when wearing face masks to pretend to be the political leaders, and a strange TV interview show segment.

We are used to seeing the real dramatic stories of any war being based on the experiences of the real people involved rather than the political decisions behind it – the power of the parts being more relatable to than the sum of the whole. Most of us think about war as pointless when counting the individuals who killed and died in the name of their country. And Minefield brings that home with its cast and stories moving as far away as possible from letting us think of people as just numbers. It is rarely more than a series of brief overlaying autobiographies from before, during and dealing with the aftermath of the War. It's important and moving to see and hear these people who were really there - the impact being stronger than if it were actors speaking the words of others. And so it feels heinous to judge it as anything other than a celebration of people still living today – working together as friends when they were once told to be enemies.

This isn't a play per se. No one on stage can act – but I don't think they are trying to – and the vocal delivery of the stories is generally terrible. Lots of words are fluffed, some lines completely incomprehensible and there are even typos in some of the surtitles which makes it feel very amateur. There are some confusing musical moments when they become the tribute band and attempt to sing Don't You Want Me in the manner you’d expect in a working man's club on a Friday night. But that's probably because in those moments it’s trying to be a performance which it isn't. For the main, it’s more like a moving and interesting documentary experience – or a series of interviews you would expect to see on the anniversary of the War.

They end with an angry agit-prop rock song that feels almost accusatory at us for not having been in a war ourselves and therefore daring us to criticise their performances. And they're probably right (for a large part of the audience). It leads to a standing ovation which signifies our appreciation for what these people did in the name of war rather than in the name of theatre. Which in the real world is of course far more important than any acting or production talent.

Reviews by Simon Ximenez

National Theatre

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National Theatre

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Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In her trademark political and playful style, Lola Arias brings together British and Argentinian veterans of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas war to share their first-hand experience of the conflict and life since.

Some of them got medals, and some were forgotten. Some of them continue in the forces and others started new lives as psychologists, musicians, teachers, security guards. Today the only thing they have in common is that they are all veterans.

Digging deep into the personal impact of war, MINEFIELD is a collaboratively created new work that merges theatre and film to explore the minefield of memory, where truth and fiction collide.

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