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Regeneration

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
When poet and World War One army officer Siegried Sassoon declares in
Nicholas Wright's play taken from Pat Barker's 1991 novel that in a
hundred years time he and his peers will still be “ploughing skulls,”
recent events make his words sound like prophecy. By the time he says
this, Tim Dellap's Sassoon has already made his public declaration
condemning the political powers who he sees as prolonging the war for
their own ends, a statement which sees him packed off to Craiglockhart
War Hospital in Edinburgh, where he meets Garmon Rhys' literary groupie
Wilfred Owen.

Elsewhere, fellow patient Billy Prior, played by Jack Monaghan as an
angry young man before his time, is coming to terms with Edinburgh as a
place that is “all old ladies and woollen jumpers,” while faced with
the innate snobbery of an institution unused to working class officers.
Both Prior and Sassoon have nightmares, manifested here in shock
visions of the dead, who step out of the shadows in a manner more
expected of The Woman in Black. While the patients find salvation
through intimacy, Stephen Boxer's military psychologist Captain Rivers
witnesses institutional horrors worthy of A Clockwork Orange.

Such unexpected stylistic lurches give Simon Godwin's production,
originally seen at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, a weight drawn
neither from Barker's original source nor from Gillies MacKinnon's film
version, made five years later. Instead, Godwin and Wright set out
their store in a no-man's land where men of action take pause to shake
off their agony before marching out to die, become immortal or both in
a play where healing and shock and awe go hand in hand.

The Herald, October 2nd 2014


ends.

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