The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier finds an interesting perspective on the lives of men who fought in the First World War. For many, that job didn’t end when the armistice was declared. As most of the fighting boys began their march home, they left behind battlefields littered with the carnage of conflict and a group of men who had to clean them up. That meant bodies. Bodies that had to be identified and buried in a process that would ultimately lead to the vast cemeteries of Europe we can visit today. Their serried ranks of white headstones and meticulously mown lawns are a far cry from the wired mud and unexploded munitions that were the daily workplace of those left behind to sort out the mess.

A wholesome story sincerely told

Jack is one of those men. It’s been two years since the guns went silent, but he’s still there clearing the wastelands of the Western Front. As he uncovers corpses and digs up limbs, he cannot forget a promise he made and a debt he wants to repay to one special man - and a strange request from a general ultimately gives him that opportunity.

The Unknown Soldier is written and performed by Ross Ericson. It’s a well-structured narrative with clearly identified locations and scenes. Ross gives a robust performance, imbuing Jack with a mellow disposition that is shattered in the flashback of enemy fire and the frantic reloading of his rifle, only to return again in the peace of post-war routines. He’s the salt-of-the earth type who is honest, up-front and can tell a good story. Ross is clearly comfortable in this setting with his fireside manner. He amuses with stories of other officers and makes us sad with melancholy reminiscences of his wife.

There are also some technical issues with this production and a few fumbled words. Depending on where you are seated, there is the the chance of lights beaming straight at you and, if you are near a speaker, the sound effects of the battle scene might wipe out much of the monologue.

It’s unfortunate that there are so many monologues on the theme of soldiers reflecting on war - it becomes harder for this one to distinguish itself. If that is your genre, you will undoubtedly enjoy this new addition to the repertoire. It is a wholesome story sincerely told; yet, despite its inventive angle and critique of the powers that be in civvy street, it is not groundbreaking.  

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Jack stayed on when the guns fell silent to search the battlefields for the boys that could not go home, for the dead and the missing, for both enemy and friend. And amongst the rusty wire and unexploded bombs, Jack's looking for something, looking for someone. He's a promise to keep and debt to repay, and now there is this strange request from the generals. A story of comradeship, betrayal and of promises both broken and kept following the carnage of World War One. A new theatre piece by the award nominated writer of Casualties.

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