Writer: Mick Wood
Director: Natasha Wood
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
Theatre Voliere’s new production ‘Poilu and Tommy’ explores the fragile relationship of the present with the past through a bittersweet tale of friendship, secrets, war, politics and poetry. By linking a young man’s memories of childhood in the English countryside in1900 with his present situation in war torn France a powerful and thought provoking, multilingual, piece of theatre is created.
The decadent and slightly decayed home of the 9 year old Alfred seamlessly changes into a war torn cellar enabling the two stories to be told simultaneously. This structure does call for high concentration from the audience as they are expected to understand the links between characters very quickly, but this is helped by the detailed and period specific design by Ruta Irbite and the subtle direction by Natasha Wood.
Each actor in the 9 person strong ensemble performs faultlessly and all the characters are engaging and believable. Tom Grace and Lula Suassuna’s portrayal of Alfred and Charles respectively were vocally and physically powerful. Charles’ dependence on poetry and beauty to get him through the war was depicted sensitively by Suassuna and he worked well against Grace’s very British but psychologically damaged Alfred. Charles’ sister Marie-Anne was performed intensely by Severine Masse and the moment when Marie-Anne stood up to the weak and unpredictable William (James Peacock) was shocking. Special mention also needs to go to Jan Wood (young Charles) and Gabriel Wood (young Alfred) whose acting was outstanding, especially when they movingly recited the poetry.
The piece itself was a detailed and politically fuelled story that mixed English, French and some German into a cohesive performance. Unfortunately being able to speak only English I was at a slight disadvantage to other members of the audience but due to the skill of Mick Wood’s script I was able to follow the majority of the story. The pace of the piece was also usually high and well-judged although there were some sections where momentum was lost due to the dialogue heavy nature of the piece.
The use of poetry was particularly well done and the English translations of the French poetry in the programme were a particularly nice touch. Overall this was a thought provoking and stylish piece that wove the story of two innocent children into the adult world of politics, money, love and appearance in an original and effective way.
Photo: Bobbin Productions |Runs until 8th March 2014.