Skip to main content

The Unreturning

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

What happens to men of war when they come home? Are they heroes, survivors or casualties? These are some of the questions posed in Anna Jones’ new play, given an adrenalin-rush of a production by the Frantic Assembly company, whose trademark fusion of fast-moving text, honed physicality and hi-tech staging accompanies their first appearance at the Traverse for some years.

Jordan’s play presents three men across three different time-zones attempting to get back to Scarborough, the town they all once called home. George has just been discharged from duty in 1918 and is looking forward to a simple life with his true-love, Rose. Frankie is back from Afghanistan circa 2013 and wants to be one of the lads again down at the local boozer. Eight years into the future, meanwhile, Nat is a refugee trying to cross the sea to whatever awaits him in the thick of an English civil war.

Presented in collaboration with Theatre Royal Plymouth, Neil Bettles’ production brings Jordan’s criss-crossing triptych of stories to life in suitably explosive fashion inside designer Andrzej Goulding’s TARDIS-like shipping container that spins its way through time.

With a title drawn from a Wilfred Owen poem, Jordan’s play suggests the three men are brothers in arms pursuing the same shell-shocked battles in different guises. Jared Garfield, Joe Layton, Jonnie Riordan and Kieton Saunders-Browne are well-drilled and charged up to the max as the three men and their nearest and dearest they’re desperate to connect with.

There is much here about violence, institutionalised or otherwise, and the roots of what we now call toxic masculinity. Trauma too is at a premium, as it is in the National Theatre’s production of Macbeth, also running in Edinburgh this week. Exposed here in thrillingly stylised fashion, it is a trauma that festers in a world where the psychological fallout of war is all around.

The Herald, October 26th 2018


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …