Centenary productions saturate the Fringe, yet the conceit at the heart of
Although missing a complex hero, there is a solitary, complex idea that runs through the The Unknown Soldier.
It’s a shame the play is mostly standard WWI fare: it’s hearty men who miss home-cooked meals and the girls at home. There are many stale moments, but Ericson doesn’t work harder in these. Instead, he opts for balance: reserved when retrospecting though ready to explode when called for. The energetic scenes are his best, with weaker charm in his quiet side; he can get mawkish, occasionally. Still, cheerily taking us through his profession and memories, he’s the host a surly battlefield needs, even when he slurs an unconvincing West Country accent. Production-side, director Michelle Yim weaves powerful anguish in a raid sequence that plays to Ericson’s strengths, but the actor generally cannot elevate his material. There’s too much too bland despite the play’s strong motif.
If only the idea of the unknown soldier took precedence. It’s a great image that receives far too little treatment and reveals far more character than the wartime trappings of second-rate works. A soldier forced to remain in No Man’s Land after armistice? Fantastic, but don’t have a character ask us ‘why am I fighting this war?’. There are also issues with pacing, but the lack of focus is the real letdown.
There is potential. Although missing a complex hero, there is a solitary, complex idea that runs through the The Unknown Soldier. This makes it a perfectly acceptable treatment of war, or at least its uncertain, morbid aftermath.