Sunday, March 02, 2008

World War 1 - We have not forgotten

Last night after a long day of egghiding, we decided it was high time we did something a little cultural. So, we went to my all time favourite theatre venue in London. No, I'm not talking about the National Theatre or the Old Vic. I'm referring to the Arcola Theatre.

I have long been a fan in fact, I went to the very first production back in 2001 of a play called SOHO.

I have seen a number of
shows at the Arcola and each has been memorable for different reasons. I would recommend that you keep your eyes on their roster.

So. ... last night we saw the Living
Unknown Soldier.

First off, World War
1 holds a few personal connections for me. Firstly, my Father's Father fought in the Great War, was gassed and many years later died due to a related illness. I think this has made me more interested as I wanted to understand what he must have gone through. While I never met Frank Rodwell, he had a huge impact on my life. I believe the fact my Father was deprived a healthy father growing up coloured his own approach to parenting. He always made it his top priority to be there for all four of us at all times. I think he realized what he missed out on and wanted to be sure his children would get all the love and attention he could give. He still does treat us royally and I know he is always there and ready to help out. (OK - I'm digressing)

Secondly, my best friend (who was recently a guest blogger) worked at Vimy Ridge Memorial - a world war 1 battle site where Canadians fought together under Canadian direction for the first time. In fact, she recently took us to the Vimy Memorial (see my flickr photos here) and I'm still reeling from the beauty of the memorial and the emotions that it stirs.

That is why I was more attracted to this play than you might think. So you want to know, was it interesting and compelling? It definitely was. It was the story of a young soldier who had lost his memory and knew nothing of who he was, where he had fought and what he had seen. It was a powerful story as this unknown soldier was pulled in one direction and then another by potential families trying to claim him for their own. The anguish of these families reminded the audience (and the doctors in the asylum where the soldier was kept) of how even 20 years after the war was over the pain of losing a child never goes away and the raw emotions are always close to the surface.

I had read a review in Timeout which criticized the director's technique of using all the actors to play the "unknown soldier" at different points during the play. I
actually thought this technique added to the reality of amnesia. It left you slightly confused and feeling off-balance as the soldier himself would feel.

The script was also speckled with lighter moments
which gave the audience a chance to break the stress often associated with themes such as war and death. The show kept a steady pace by quickly moving through time which was marked cleverly on the wall with chalk . Yeah - I liked it alot. Here is more about the production company behind the Living Unkown Soldier (you can also watch a trailer on their site and judge for yourself. Blog participation: Have you seen a movie or play you would recommend for yours truly?

Again, the Arcola does not disappoint.

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