The Observatory

Finch is in emotional turmoil. He is a soldier in a war that seems unjust and corrupt. His family is disintegrating before him and he is being accused of first degree murder for a man he shot at a checkpoint. Even more complications arise when his criminal case is passed on to Beaumont, a notoriously unfair and psychologically violent officer.These scenes exploring military authority and bureaucracy are combined with a meta-narrative as the man we saw die in the first scene lives on as a posthumous narrator, guiding us through the futility of violence and pointing out our finite existence. This is a collision of worlds and cultures which works as an interesting concept and to a large extent fulfils the company's ambitious claim that they are focused on 'asking the right questions of our audience, rather than dictating the right answers.’Sadly, there is a however. This potentially engaging relationship between victim and soldier is sidelined too often. In a play that moves extremely quickly through its plot, difficulties unsurprisingly arise in the exploration and portrayal of characters. Beaumont is depicted almost as a Blackadder villain which conflicts with early descriptions of him as threatening and vicious. The odd and inappropriate 'comedy' he introduces undercuts the tension that the rest of the cast work so hard for.The aesthetic and tone of the performance cannot be faulted and should indeed be celebrated. With low-tech staging and sparse lighting there is an intentional uneasiness that resonates, perhaps because the cast is constantly present on stage, eagerly watching, just as we are. The script is stodgy and confused in parts but the overall effect of the ensemble cast is powerful. Gunshots are recreated by mass clapping and chants are beautifully harmonised to create a haunting effect as the words 'we're happy here, we've found our home' linger uncomfortably in the air.The torture of British soldiers is fairly unknown territory in theatre and this production ensures that the roles of justice and morality dance together to highlight such horrors. Despite a few misjudgements, The Observatory certainly succeeds in engaging the imagination of its audience and gives an important insight into the fragility of man.

The Blurb

Two paths cross in the desert. A father is killed and a soldier blamed. For the man who pulled the trigger, the choice is made clear: honour or shame. Poetic, powerful new ensemble theatre from Snuff Box.