"A British soldier never runs away from a fight", Tommy Atkins proudly proclaims. All battles, however, are not the same, and neither do they all involve being on the front line. Back in civvy street when the initial exhilaration of being home and having survived dies down, another war often looms that can drag on for a lifetime.
Convincing and energetic in its portrayal of the highs and lows of a topsy-turvy life.
Shell Shock is written and performed by Tim Marriott. It’s based on an autobiographical novel by Neil Blower Watkins that describes his life after active service in Kosovo and Iraq and was compiled in association with military and mental health charities. Marriott explains that 'much of the play’s power comes from comedy". This might be a surprise in dealing with such a serious matter but it fits in well with the maxim that if you didn't laugh you would cry. In reality, of course, you do both.
Shell Shock is ultimately a life-affirming tale of an ex-soldier who does not believe he has post-traumatic stress disorder. His earlier divorce is behind him and he’s been in another relationship that sustained him overseas. Now the opportunity of making a life together presents itself. He is optimistic. He believes he will get a job, because surely ex-servicemen with all their skills and respectability are in high demand. The realities gradually begin to overwhelm him as the nightmare flashbacks increase and the rejected applications pile up. Disillusionment mounts and a couch-potato existence takes over.
The monologue has earned the praise of veterans who find that Tommy’s story chimes with their own experience and that of former comrades. The play is neatly divided into episodes with apposite musical interludes between them. Marriott's performance is convincing and energetic in its portrayal of the highs and lows of a topsy-turvy life with all its struggles, from the times of utter despair to the moments when things seem to be improving and he can ultimatey say along with the song, ‘It’s a new day; it’s a new dawn and I’m feeling good’.