Writers: Emma Gibson and Rob Johnston
Director: Benedict Power
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Theatre spaces like the King’s Arms were made for intense little dramas like War Stories, an affecting two-hander that translates a vast and terrible story into an intimate conversation. Played on a simple set with a paired back, but beautifully lit, set by Meriel Pym, this first world war tale is an entertaining and moving piece of theatre.
Bernard (Joel Parry) has seen some terrible things on the battlefield, so terrible that memory loss has kicked in and landed him in a French hospital. Australian Elsie (Verity Henry) has travelled halfway across the world in the footsteps of two soldier brothers to serve as a nurse. As the two share their stories in Bernard’s isolated hospital room, the enormity, and barbarity, of the world’s first modern war is slowly and horrifically revealed.
Verity Henry is a delight as Elsie, the girl who grew up wanting to be a pirate or adventurer until she realised girls didn’t grow up to be those things, became a nurse and took on one of the most extraordinary adventures. She’s both narrator and character, setting scenes and opening brief windows on the world outside. Emma Gibson and Rob Johnston’s storytelling is powerfully descriptive, with strong images of the minutia of life as well as the bleak descriptions of the Western Front. Henry delivers it in a completely absorbing manner.
If the final twist in the tale is somewhat unlikely, it hardly distracts from the fact that this is a powerful story, well researched and beautifully told.
Runs until 20 July 2016