Director: Tim Marriott
Adaptation: Tim Marriott
Shell Shock is an adaptation of a novel by Neil Blower that deals with Tommy, a soldier struggling to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s fair to say that the market for plays on this subject seems a little over-crowded if you look through the Fringe programme. What sets this one apart is that the novel was written by an ex-soldier, and, while the names may have changed, the story is largely autobiographical.
Because of that, you may imagine that the central character would be likeable, but the opposite is the case. Even before the anger, rages and suspicion that may be related to his PTSD, there is a lot about Tommy that is unpleasant. This is a brave choice, as it challenges audiences to feel sympathy for him. However, at the same time, the fact that Tommy can be tormented by his memories and nightmares, shows that PTSD does not discriminate and its sufferers are not simply the rookie unprepared soldier.
Over the course of an hour, Tommy, played by Tim Marriott, descends further into a world of paranoia and depression, seemingly feeling less a part of the world around him while also being more dismissive of it. His nightmares cut into this, driving him forward to what will eventually become his tipping point. He may appear to be the archetypal squaddie that can’t adapt to civilian life, but there is far more to him than that.
In the way he portrays Tommy and the way his adaptation links the experiences of a soldier with his present-day reality, Tim Marriott makes Tommy someone you may not like but you will understand. It’s a nuanced performance and the ending adds a further layer to the story, while the play itself adds another layer to the debate about what PTSD is and who it can affect.
Runs until 25 August 2018 | Image: Contributed