Wired is one of several productions with a military theme being performed at the Army Reserve Centre, Summerhall’s new venue, army@Fringe. What it portrays is a world away from the cosy atmosphere of the mess bar, the art exhibition and the casual social interaction; not that several of the soldiers on duty haven't had first hand experience of what it portrays..

Wired is a worthy and honourable tribute to the sacrifices individuals choose make for their country

Lesley Wilson’s play follows the young Joanna (Jasmine Main) from the time just prior to her recruitment through to her discharge and experience of post-traumatic stress. Wilson had joined protest marches against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but she was drawn to this subject by her background in social work and counselling and interest in issues of mental health. In 2009 as the death toll rose on all sides in the conflict the news frequently showed coffins being taken off military planes. Wilson, however, looked into the eyes of those returning with physical injuries and glimpsed into their far less obvious mental condition.

At a post-performance discussion with Wilson, the cast, and others who made this production possible, several veterans commented on how well the play captures the traumas from which many suffer In this and other discussions at the venue the therapeutic power of drama has become increasingly evident, along with the deep appreciation of military personnel that playwrights, producers, actors and directors are taking up such themes.

There is a stark, chilling simplicity to Wired. The vast empty floor is occupied by three women, often in choreographed sequences that try to maximise its size. The text matches this. The lines are short, often staccato and frequently detached from a sense of dialogue. This is most evident in the words of Voice (Rachel Ogilvy). She recites the enticing promises of army life as though it were a verbal recruitment brochure. Mother (Natalie Clark) interrupts with the dissenting voice that reminds us of Wilson’s own stance. She also harks back to her husband’s demise into alcoholism from his own traumas. Meanwhile, Joanna tries to reconcile the two. Eventually she joins up because it seems a better option than incurring debts on a degree course. Her time starts out well until the life-changing incident occurs. She is discharged and returns home unable to adjust to civilian life and haunted by what she has experienced. Like her father, she finds consolation in alcohol and enters the downward spiral of drink and depression.

The play would probably benefit from a smaller, more intimate venue in which the audience is brought much closer to the action. Often the characters seemed a long way off, isolated in a dimly lit expanse of nothing, although the lighting fit the mood. The rapid-fire script requires concentrated listening as lines dart from one character to another. They are not always fully projected and to the untuned ear the strong Scottish accents often make understanding difficult.

Wired is a worthy and honourable tribute to the sacrifices individuals choose make for their country and a sharp reminder that while fighting the enemy might come to an end, fighting the demons is for life. 

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The Blurb

'They said I'd be good at it.' The story of a young woman soldier's journey through post-traumatic stress by award-winning playwright Lesley Wilson, developed in collaboration with the British Army. Following training, Joanna is deployed to Afghanistan and believes she is prepared for what lies ahead. What she is not prepared for is a visit from her past. As the realities of war close in around her, Joanna struggles to make sense of the voices, memories and flashbacks that wage war inside her head. Originally developed with support from Playwrights' Studio Scotland and Tron Theatre Creative.

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