Theatre review: Casualties at the Park Theatre, N4

Alex Ferns (Gary) and Finlay Robertson (Mike) in Casualties at Park Theatre - photo by Simon Annand.

Alex Ferns (Gary) and Finlay Robertson (Mike) in Casualties at Park Theatre - photo by Simon Annand.jpg - Credit: Archant

War has always provided fertile ground for explorations into the human psyche, and this once again proves to be the case in this new play by Ross Ericson.

We are introduced to Gary Maddocks, a counter IED soldier. He is someone who feels stifled and bored away from the front line. Bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm, he restlessly anticipates his return to duty in Afghanistan with his brother in arms, Mike Evans. Unfortunately, it is only once they are in the field of battle that he notices a fundamental and unsettling change in Mike. His partner Emma may also be hiding something from him.

Scenes flit from past to present, and from the kitchen sink of home to the desert of the Afghan landscape. Both settings offer a nail-biting tension and an abundance of confrontation. Sadly, there are times where the torrid exchanges momentarily slump into snippets of meagre and unwelcome melodrama. Thankfully, the play is taut enough to steer and snap out of such cul-de-sacs without too much trouble. The cast deploy their characters with an appropriately fiery bluster, peppering the dialogue with a colourful language that feels authentic. Through weaving friendship, love and loyalty into a cocktail of high stakes, recriminations and heartache, Ericson has moulded a compelling document showcasing the consequences of an occupation overseas. He has also managed to offer a subtext that questions masculinity; in how it is measured and how it can be brought into question. How hard is it being an impotent soldier in a futile situation?

The saying is that all is fair in love and war. Casualties succeeds in its mission to engage and entertain, whilst leaving you to question that very saying. It is exactly what a good play should do.

Casualties runs until 14th July 2013 at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park

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