Writer: Gary Kitching
Director: Phil Hoffman
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
The Bravo 22 Company works with wounded, injured and sick Service personnel, veterans and their families. The company supports their recovery through the arts, and their plays draw on the lives of company members. Their current production, Unspoken, is set in a pub where the landlord and customers are all former members of the armed forces.
The first thing you notice is the authenticity of the set. Designer Alison Ashton has created a pub that looks like it has been refurbished to be exactly the same as it was before, possibly because the customers would never want it to change. The cast inside the pub also look like this is their local, and as the lights go up, audiences are taken into their world. We only leave the pub to see the apparently homeless man outside it
It’s a large cast production, with 15 people in the show, and there are a lot of stories going on. From the four men talking about a film club and the film they could make if only they could think of a story that hadn’t already been done, through the stand-up comedian who lost both his legs to an Improvised Explosive Device, and the former pub landlord with his wife, daughter and son-in law, the character’s lives are all tied to the forces. The only exceptions to this are a singer, whose background is not made clear, and Walt, a man with a large and completely fabricated service history.
Bringing these stories together, and letting them develop, is a difficult task in the 75 minutes the show runs for. It feels like the trailer for a TV series, introducing us to characters who could all have an episode where their life takes centre stage. The most effective parts of the play are when the characters talk about their Service experiences and what lead to them leaving the Services. The man outside the pub in particular has some vivid and reflective speeches that build up to a poignant scene with Walt where both men learn about the other.
The more frustrating aspect of the play is that the potential main story line of the retiring landlord becomes just another story, making this a portmanteau piece rather than something with a single unifying storyline that other stories can spring off from. With a bit more structure, it could move from being a play with some strong moments and some good lines into a play that fully realises it’s potential by linking all the strands into a compelling overall story.
Runs until 27 August 2018 | Image: Contributed