Pink Mist, beautifully written in verse by Owen Sheers, explores the trauma caused by war – not just the suffering of the combatants but also the suffering of their girlfriends, wives and mothers.
The plot follows three young men Arthur, Taff and Hads (often referred to as boys – thus contrasting their youth with the horrors they face) who join the army and face a tour of Afghanistan. Eighteen year old Arthur (Phil Dunster) wants adventure and an escape from boredom in Bristol. His childhood refrain, ‘Who wants to play war?’ sums up his naivety of the nature of modern conflict. He wants to play out – to seek thrills. He isn’t prepared for the terror that awaits. Phil Dunster is engaging and the decline of Arthur is tragic.
Hads (Alex Stedman) is seventeen when he signs up. Spurred on by his mate joining (something that haunts Arthur), Hads signs up for twenty two years – five more years than he has lived so far. His ideas of soldiering come from television – he innocently refers to the Rifles Regiment as ‘Sharpe’s Regiment’. Stedman’s portrayal is gripping in how a young man stoically comes to terms with permanent disfigurement and amputation.
Taff (Peter Edwards) is a wounded soldier dealing with his trauma by abusing drugs and alcohol. His wife Lisa (Erin Doherty) vocalises the agony of those left behind. Doherty’s performance is blistering and the pain of her character is palpable.
The staging is stripped back. There is a slab for a stage with a square backdrop on to which lights and images are projected, a bench and a wheel chair. The minimalism works well with the movement of the play. The stark staging allows the focus to fall on the poetics of the performance.
The camaraderie of the friends is replicated in the physicality of the piece: the choreography emphasises the dynamics between the friends and family. The push/pull of family life is reflected in the motions of gripping and holding.
The strong sense of friendship and kinship is evident. Despite its subject matter, It’s not a relentlessly depressing play – it has moments of lightness, of fun and there is a sense of optimism at times. It is an incredibly moving piece of theatre. Go see.
***** (5 Stars)
Review by Samantha Coughlan
Bristol Old Vic
Date of review: 6th July 2015
1st-11th July 2015
A Bristol Old Vic Production
Playwright: Owen Sheers
Director: John Retallack
Associate Director & Choreographer: George Mann
Erin Doherty – Lisa
Phil Dunster – Arthur
Peter Edwards – Taff
Rebecca Hamilton – Gwen
Zara Ramm – Hads’ Mother
Alex Stedman – Hads