Playing war in the school playground is one thing in Owen Sheers' play, first produced in 2015 and now on a UK tour of duty in John Retallack and George Mann's revival of their Bristol Old Vic production. Being on the front-line of Afghanistan is quite another for the teenage boys who people become men too soon, especially with everything that comes after.
This is clear from the opening monologue spoken by Arthur, a lanky Bristol adolescent who, as played by Dan Krikler, becomes a dynamic narrator of his own destiny as well as his best mates. Standing tall while he regales the audience with the sort of free-wheeling verse born of the club culture he and his pals Taff and Hads let off steam in, he is surrounded by both them and the mother, wife and girlfriend they variously left behind. The shapes they throw in unison are a well choreographed routine, but when they speak, we see what they have lost as well.
On one level this is familiar territory for Sheers, whose verbatim play about wounded soldiers, The Two Lives of Charlie F, won the Amnesty International freedom of Expression Award several Edinburgh Festival Fringes ago. The energy that comes here from the poetry and heightened physical delivery transforms it into an even more urgent piece of work. Crucial to this are the immersive implosions of a dub-step soundtrack that so evocatively reflects the internal traumas of what used to be called shell-shock. All of this joins forces to become a damning indictment of those who see the everyday tragedies laid bare here as mere collateral damage.
The Herald, February 27th 2017