The Last Kill follows a Scottish soldier, Michael, falling apart as he tries to find the answers he needs to justify his actions in war. To do this, we see his life story from a young boy, then a new recruit, through subsequent tours of duty, up until the moment we meet him. The play explores the process that turns innocent young boys who couldn’t kill a fly into those who can take fire at an enemy target and aim to kill.
Most enjoyable are the poignant moments when Michael's soldiering bravado drops and you see the real fear and pain he battles to keep hidden.
Gary Quinn has excellent range as an actor, from an endearing version of a young Michael with his piggy bank, to a hardened commanding officer loudly swearing at his new recruits. In addition to portraying Michael at different times in his life, he also takes the role of Michael's mother, his commanding officer and his buddy, Sean. The character changes are lightening quick and almost flawlessly complete.
At points, his characterisation becomes a bit too exaggerated and there are moments that surpass nuance but mostly we believe each character we meet. Quinn is very physical and energetic, although again, sometimes it feels over the top and uncontrolled. The delivery flips between direct narration to the audience and conversations with other characters, which works very well, although there are points which feel awkward when it doesn't blend smoothly. The narrative arc is strong and we feel a great deal of satisfaction when the play comes full circle.
The balance between light and dark is well managed, although there isn't enough lightness to balance the heaviness of the play. There is a lot of the predictable toilet humour that you'd expect from soldiers, although the writing includes some other quirky puns and jokes. Most enjoyable, however, are the poignant moments when Michael's soldiering bravado drops and you see the real fear and pain he battles to keep hidden.