Writers: Simon Day and Martin Bonger
Director: Simon Day
Reviewer: Chris Oldham
The petals of two flowers representing the planes that struck the World Trade Centre in 2001 is one of several haunting images in The Plasticine Men’s new production There Shall Be Fireworks, now playing at The Wardrobe Theatre.
Bringing together material from various sources, it attempts to unpick the British and American involvement in Afghanistan over the centuries – not an easy task to undertake in an hour. Wisely, writers Simon Day and Martin Bonger choose to approach the subject through the story of one man, Richie (Bonger), who travels to Afghanistan as a young boy in the 1950s with his mother and father when his father is involved in building a damn. Over the years that follow, Richie returns a handful of times but, despite settling down in Chicago and becoming a city trader, his love for the country he first encountered as a child never goes away.
Max Johns’ set is almost as poetic as Day and Bonger’s prose – a pile of stones on an Afghan rug, an office chair, a ceiling fan, and a small tank of water in the corner. Bonger makes use of it all, with his quietly intense performance accentuated by Ben Osborn’s sound and Rachael Duthie’s lighting, taking him from night clubs to stock exchanges to the ‘Graveyard of Foreigners’ in Kabul where his father is buried.
Bonger is an engaging, somewhat enigmatic narrator, driven by something between anger, resentment, and reluctant acceptance. With the millions of dollars he’s made on the stock markets, Richie tries to execute his own solution for peace in Afghanistan, only to discover the true power that governments can possess when shouting someone down.
Some elements work better than others – though designed to shake the audience to life and keep us on our toes, the final third taking the form of a Ted Talk disrupts the intimacy that’s been steadily building thus far.
Stitching together a string of questions that may very well have no answers, There Shall Be Fireworks is a physical, political piece of theatre, deliberately unsatisfying and offering little in the way of comfort, and rather more in the way of humility.
Runs until 24 September 2016 | Image: Contributed