Writer: Kevin Fegan
Director: Christopher Elmer-Gorry
Reviewer: Katie Burchett
Reparation Island: a place to share, to think, to repair, to rebuild. Kevin Fegan’s one-act play is performed by the ex-service men and women who make up Bravo 22 Company and is based on first-hand experiences from within the Armed Forces community in the Midlands.
As the lights come up, eleven people line up and introduce themselves one by one. From here, we begin to journey through individuals’ stories following perhaps what is intended to be interpreted as a chronological path to reparation. Fegan splits the narrative into six sections; we visit some of the voices in their childhoods, where the use of toy planes littering the stage is a lovely touch; we accompany them in their enlistment and training; we explore conflict and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) where movement sequences are effective in bringing the darker side of the stories to life; and we eventually end up at reparation.
The structure is simple, the stage is bare, the wings are open, mirroring the honesty and rawness of the stories. Nothing is sugar-coated but equally this isn’t an hour of wallowing. It is, in fact, quite the opposite, which, for Fegan, one can imagine was a delicate balance to find. His script pulls no punches and no one apologises for anything they say or feel, ultimately baring all, the good and the bad. Even when emotion threatens to overwhelm Rachael Yarrington, relaying a young woman’s troubled relationship with her veteran father, she picks herself up and carries on, demonstrating a resilience that underscores the entire play.
The play explores mental health issues openly, with a particular focus on PTSD. Movement sequences are slick and succinct and the use of breath is extremely effective in physicalising the suffering of trauma victims. One poignant moment is when the company comes together as a group of cheerful pub-goers, drinking, chinking their beer glasses and singing loudly about being legless. James Delamere’s simple but effective lighting allows us to catch brief glimpses of the true impact of war, masked quickly by another rousing, drunken chorus.
Reparation Island ends as it begins; the full company together, contemplating how to move forward and rediscover their identities. Its message? Trauma doesn’t define you. Pick yourself up and carry on but honour your physical and mental scars. Of all the things they share, this group of eleven, (twelve, if you count a star performance by ex-sailor Jamie Weller’s guide dog, Freddie), shares this belief above all else.
This isn’t a tale of sorrow. This is a production that sets out to uplift and rouse but also to warn. We fight now more than ever, nothing changes, and so the cycle continues. A powerful and moving portrayal of military experiences, this important play is not to be missed.
Runs Until 15 June 2019 | Image: Contributed