Saturday, 27 April 2013

About Tommy, Red Stitch, April 26, 2013 ***1/2

By Thor Bjørn Krebs, translated by David Duchin,
Red Stitch Actors Theatre until May 25, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 26

This review published in Herald Sun on line on April 30, 2013 and after that in print. KH

Fighting in a war is always debilitating and desperate, but Tommy (Matthew Whitty), a gung-ho, young, Danish soldier posted to the former Yugoslavia in the 90s, cannot even fight back when threatened, because UN Peacekeepers are not permitted to initiate fire.

Danish playwright, Thor Bjørn Krebs’ documentary-style script, About Tommy, comprises narration by several Danish soldiers, but Tommy’s experience remains the pivot, and we witness his psychological breakdown during and after his horrific tour of duty.

Krebs shifts the characters’ tone from that of cool, military observers in early scenes, to escalating horror and despair by the end.

Director, Kat Henry, also positions the audience as observers, confronting us with actual newsreel footage of the conflict that underscores the gruesome, verbal descriptions of wartime horrors.

Whitty is compelling and intensely physical as Tommy, capturing the transformation of Tommy’s early thrill-seeking bravado into shattered frustration when he realises that he cannot make a difference in this mindless war.

Paul Henri and Kate Cole are versatile in multiple roles as various soldiers, officers and Tommy’s proud, well-meaning but ill-informed parents who appear as live video feeds projected onto large screens.

The production is slow to get going and includes too many moving screens in scene changes, but it eventually grabs us by the neck and shakes us when Tommy confronts the grotesque misery of war.

By Kate Herbert

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