Director: Lee Hart
Writer: Jonathan Lewis
Reviewer: Marina Spark
Theatre Royal Plymouth has hosted some incredible and breath-taking shows over the years;however, the latest production to tread the boards of the illustrious Lyric stage is particularly special. Boots at the Door is a unique artistic creation, developed and performed by members of Plymouth’s Armed Forces Community. The show brings the human reality of Service to life in a truly authentic and relevant manner. Theatre Royal Plymouth is clearly proud of its partnership with the Bravo 22 Company and the piece that has been created as a result. That pride is well deserved and it will hopefully lead to future ventures and collaborations.
Boots at the Door makes absolutely no apology for being a community projectand is all the stronger for doing so. This is a performance that reaches into the very heart of the military community and reveals the often hidden challenges that face service men and women long after they have returned from the theatre of war, as well as those that are met by their loved ones. Plymouth as a city has an incredibly strong and historic military heritage, and so the issues tackled within this performance have a particular poignancy. This is reinforced by well-judged local references that gently yet securely anchor the combat experiences and consequences in a world that is real to all members of the audience, regardless of whether or not they have seen service.
Boots at the Door follows a self-aware narrative that tells the story of an amateur performance by former service personnel and family members as part of a community support initiative. The actors work on a production of Homer’s The Odysseyand, in doing so, explore their relationships with one another as well as with their families at home. The interaction with the civilian director holds a mirror up to the not infrequent lack of understanding or knowledge from those outside of the Forces Community, as well as their desire to learn and understand. The choice of The Odyssey is also intentional, with its clear relevance to the theme of trying to return from war.
This production is technically superb. The use of video projection is strong throughoutwhile the lighting and sound are both dynamic and effective. This serves to place the audience within the performance space, as recordings are used to fill the auditorium with sound and voice. The cast interacts with the set with ease, particularly given the fact that many are relatively new to performance in such a space.
Being a piece of community theatre there are inevitable moments where lines are lost or timing is slightly out in a manner that you would not expect in a professional production, however, the unashamed confidence and pride that Boots at the Door has in its community theatre status leaves these occasional slips behind. The audience is not here to watch professional actors create someone else’s story. It is here to see real people portray the genuine truth that many members of the community deal with on a day-to-day basis, and the hearty applause that follows numerous scenes only confirms this.
Often moving and frequently funny, Boots at the Door has a particular relevance to the community within which it is based. It is a very good piece of community theatre, which truly places its community at its centre. All involved should be very proud indeed. This show is well worth catching before the end of its run.
Runs until5 December 2015 | Image: Contributed