This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
Four bloodied and dismembered bodies strewn across the stage as the audience side steps their way past them to their seats clearly setting up the fate of this company in Afghanistan. They return in their afterlife to gradually find out what has happened to them and what it all means. Back in UK, Louise is attempting to make a comeback as an artist after her marriage with engineer Ed has fallen apart as well as having to juggle all that along with her son, Jeff and his imaginary friend Buddy.
Written by Pamela Carter, the dialogues themselves are adequately written but sadly without much content. The play is full of generic comments about war, death, afterlife and oddly, the value of art. Everything is touched upon lightly without much insight. The meandering plot lacks direction after the initial desire to find out the connections wears off. Though there is a deeper message with a more subtle link in the peripheral character Buddy/Budur who represents the costs of war nearer to home. Nonetheless, it is not enough to help the rest of the play.
There are some finer points to pick out here. It takes a while to sketch out the soldier’s one dimensional characters, with names such as Nicey and Princess. And for them to realise they may not be alive anymore. Also, the nickname Princess should be obvious, having been gone over at length about how he cares about his look and hair, but it is actually explained towards the end of the play. The domestic drama part is uninteresting and the reconciliation at the end seems unrealistic. The only link between the the soldiers and the family is because Princess used to pose for Louise which allow for some banal discussion about the pros and cons of joining the army which then merge into a pseudo debate about class that has no conclusion or consequence.
Despite the play itself, the direction by Audrey Sheffield keeps the production moving forward apart from the odd tone with the cat’s funeral wailing scene. The performance from the cast is good with Adam Philps doing great work as the young and street smart Princess. And Kate Miles is adequately lost and uncertain as Louise.
The play’s coverage is certainly broad and yet it is not fully realised. At least there is a moment that resonates strongly, as Jeff ask his imaginary friend “Can we go home now?”, the sentiment is truly shared.