For a topic that has become slightly worn in recent years and can easily slip into cliché, this was a very commendable take, using the extremely difficult device of verbatim performance. The show is based around a series of interviews with Royal Marines and their spouses as the interviewers. As the wives and girlfriends try to come to grips with their other halves’ tales of trauma, the soldiers are equally struggling to communicate their experiences.
The gritty truth of a war-torn Afghanistan and the real experiences of real men would be almost impossible to write as fiction and this is what made it so poignant.
All very matter of fact and all taken from real, recorded interviews. The performers were communicating the recorded interviews as they were being fed into their ear pieces. This was a great touch, as all the idiosyncratic speech patterns of the interviewees were picked up and portrayed, giving it a more authentic feel than if someone was to perform lines they had learned and dramatized.
The interviews were shocking but endearing as the soldiers were interacting with their loved ones, rather than an anonymous interviewer, and this was really revealed by the performers’ chemistry on stage. It could have easily been the Marines and their wives that we were witnessing before us.
Having them converse in this way made each account very personal, contrasting with the regimented image we receive of the almost robotic, well-oiled machine that is the British Royal Marines. It personalised their stories and individualised their accounts of war, something we don’t often get a glimpse of through the retellings of our mass media.
The setting was simple but made unique by each couple who interacted with it. As the piece was very dialogue-heavy, anything more would have detracted from what was being said. There was a moment when a couple of the actors sat and spoke from within the audience, it was slightly difficult to make out but their murmurings added a chill to the comforting atmosphere that was being created on stage. Given the subject matter, this was highly appropriate and it was elements like this that allowed the piece to foray into the light-hearted and humorous but always be brought back to reflect thesolemnity of the subject matter.
There was an interval from the live acting when a projection dominated the stage and displayed each couple facing each other with loving gazes and soft embraces. The dialogue continued overhead as stories continued to be told. The interaction of the performers again exacerbated the emotions behind the interviews and the presence of all the characters on the screen promoted a sense of shared experience.
This was an excellent piece of performance that was tackled brilliantly by the aptly named Deer Hunters and it would be interesting to see how it could be developed. The performers concealed their acting with such authenticity that it really was difficult to accept that they were just playing a part. The gritty truth of a war-torn Afghanistan and the real experiences of real men would be almost impossible to write as fiction and this is what made it so poignant.