Writer: Valentijn Dhaenens
Reviewer: Marina Spark
Through its latest co-production with SKaGeN and Richard Jordan Productions Ltd the Theatre Royal, Plymouth proves once again that it is not your average regional theatre. Having just returned to Plymouth after a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Small War is a unique, technically impressive tapestry of reflections on war.
Writer and performer Valentijn Dhaenens appears in the flesh as a heart hardened World War One nurse attending to a video version of himself as a soldier. Three copies of the soldier come into existence and highlight the repetitive, never ending trauma and tragedy that befell most of the soldiers, not only in World War One but in each and every war throughout history.
Excerpts from writings by veterans and authors such as Atilla the Hun to Wilfred Owen are used to make up the flowing script. Reflections on wars ranging from the Crimean to the Afghanistan take the audience on a journey through not only the lives of those that wrote the pieces but the hopes and fears of their loved ones and correspondents too. The soldiers and nurse interact with the fluidity of live theatre despite the fact that everyone but the nurse is recorded. The character dynamics and perfect timing combine to communicate the sheer helplessness and desolation of those involved in conflicts.
The technical aspects of the show, designed by Jeroen Wuyts, are executed perfectly. The projections and videos are of an extremely high quality and are used to great effect to symbolise progressions and repetitions in the storytelling.
Small War is a gritty piece of quasi-verbatim writing. Dhaenens’ haunting performance has soul and depth. The piece confidently challenges notions of chivalry and heroic sacrifice while holding a looking glass to the psychological horrors of conflict. Small War’s message is timeless but has a heightened poignancy when combined with the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. It is well worth a watch.
Runs until 13th September 2014