Brighton FringeDramaReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Shell Shock – Sweet (St Andrew’s Church)

Writer: Tim Marriott adopted from the novel by Neil Blower
Director: Tim Marriott
Reviewer: Glen Pearce

The after-effects on our service personnel have provided a rich source for playwrights recently. Shows such as The Two Worlds of Charlie F and Pink Mist highlight the trauma that continues long after the return from the front.

For author Neil Blower, however, the subject is much more personal, the topic of an autobiographical novel based on his experiences in the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment during the Iraq war of 2003.

Now adapted for the stage as a monologue by writer and Director Tim Marriott, there’s no escaping the stark realities of life outside of the forces family.

Young Tommy is full of hope on leaving the army. With his skills (qualifications are lacking if you don’t count a couple of army earned NVQs) the police and fire service will surely be fighting over themselves to employee him. The cold reality though is much harsher and instead young Tommy is forced into a minimum wage job as a metal polisher.

Ambitions for a better life with girlfriend Michelle seem to evaporate but quick tempered Tommy isn’t going to settle for long. Shopping trips to IKEA, parental expectations plus life in corporate employment does little to settle Tommy’s troubled mind.

Marriott’s adaptation packs a lot into a short amount of time, perhaps too much. While we glimpse snippets of Tommy’s post-combat stress, including brief flashbacks to the death of a friend who only joined the army because of him, these are only touched on briefly. We get that Tommy is pained, we understand his depression and anger yet we yearn to discover more of what drives Tommy to the very edge of despair.

Tom Page’s portrayal is full of nervous energy, capturing not only the young former soldier but also the myriad company of friends and family that populate his life. While there is a simmering anger, barely concealed by the overly chirpy, cheeky chappy, what is somewhat lacking is more variance in light and shade. We glimpse moments on the abyss but all to often those moments vanish as we hurtle at break neck speed into the next vignette.

The company is working to support a range of charities to promote mental health awareness but the closing scene resembles a corporate video for these organisations rather than a truly poignant end. Perhaps a stronger ending would come by ending the piece one scene earlier, with Tommy facing the ultimate decision.

A thought-provoking and worthwhile production that just needs to find its voice.

Runs 5-7 May 2017  at Sweet (St Andrew’s Church) | Image: Contributed  |  @brightonfringe

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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