An empty room. A shapeless cardboard box held together with bits of gaffer tape. Voices. From outside the room, a woman, apparently. From inside the box a man, a Welsh ex-soldier he says. Her husband apparently. They argue, loudly, about post-traumatic stress disorder, why the man is in the box, why he won’t come out. Whether or not he has taken, is taking, or will take drugs. Later, a knocking at a door in the room. Another voice. A man who says he is an ex-soldier, a former comrade, come to help. They argue, loudly, about PTSD, why the man is in the box, why he won’t come out, whether or not he has taken, is taking, or will take drugs. There you have the basic premise of this investigation into the effects of military trauma, if that is what it is. Its homage to Samuel Beckett is obvious. No-one was happy in Happy Days. No-one is happy in The Happy Ones. Godot never arrives. Neither the man, his comrade, or his wife ever show themselves. Though enlivened occasionally by the gallows humour in the directness of its working-class South Wales speech patterns, it’s a relentlessly bleak, weirdly unnatural set-up as the madness goes around and around, but does not in the end arrive anywhere much further from where it started. Perhaps that’s the intention. The production is one of those ‘work in progress’ ones, and where it will progress to is not yet clear. The images are striking, disturbing even, but at the moment it’s a tad too repetitive and shapeless for this critic.

 

** (2 Stars)

John Christopher Wood