Review: Home: For A Lost Soldier
Image: Tristan Bates Theatre
Cast and creatives
Lord Rochester - Mark Beer
Lady Rochester - M. K. Rose
Isabelle - Holly Kellingray
Matthews - Ricardo Reis
Bennett - Jordan Whitby
Gwen - Kathryn Bryan
Henry Jones - Martin Challinor
Sylvie - Elisa Mello
The Mayor - Alfie James
Capturing a small community in the aftermath of the war and how they coped when the soldiers returned home and how they worked towards rebuilding their lives.
"Home" is a love story and a thriller rolled into one with a wonderful cast, which also explores issues of mental health, unemployment, disabilities and women's rights.
Following sell-out performances at The Albany Theatre and The Above the Arts Theatre, London, Home: For a Lost Soldier has will be returning to the West-End following popular demand for a special limited 1-week period.
In this special limited season, award-winning Playwright Alfie James and Award-winning Actor Mark Beer have teamed up to direct the play.
Performed in an intimate space and in Alfie James Productions simplistic style using Alfie James beautiful writing style; this performance is one not to be missed.
Only a month or so after the national commemorations marking the end of World War I, here's a play which proves suitably timely in offering a glimpse of the aftermath of that terrible conflict.
It was not unusual during the Great War to find fighting units composed of people who knew each other - men from the same locality, for example.
That fact has not gone unnoticed in the preparations for this production, injecting authenticity into the events portrayed.
We're only, perhaps, weeks after the war's end when the play begins.
Most of the village men have only recently returned from the trenches - so recently in fact that none of them have had chance to discuss with their families their real experiences during their time at the front and the horrors they faced there.
Some of those horrors were not the result of deafening bombardment by the enemy, or hand-to-hand fighting in no-man's land, but events that took place within their own ranks.
Returning home to his comfortable living - largely provided by his wife's wealth - Lord Rochester (played by Mark Beer) is taking-up the reigns, more or less, where he left off, as a priggish and bombastic landowner able to wield huge power in the local community thanks to his ability to provide employment.
Rochester is, in almost every respect, a man with feudal ambitions focused on controlling not only the local townspeople but also his own family.
His appalling attitude towards women, though perhaps typical of his class in those times, makes for uneasy viewing as he orders his daughter into marriage, dominates his wife and ruthlessly exploits the position of female employees through regular philandering.
But it's his role as a general in the army - commanding the local men from his community - which comes under scrutiny and actually forms the central feature of the play.
That's underlined in a poem the village men recite which bookends the play.
Though the intention is clear enough, the verse lacks some of the authenticity of the earthy language of the trenches and, more importantly, gives us too much of a signal in the initial stages about what is to come.
Other moments in the play are over-worked such as a scene in a hospital where we find a patient suffering from shell-shock, with his condition simultaneously described by his brother.
Some aspects of the playing feel unconvincing and a little raw and awkward, not always helped by a script that occasionally lacks natural, more conversational fluency, especially in dialogue from the villagers.
And the final, rather ambiguous scene also felt awkward, leaving me wondering about its implications, and the central character, Lord Rochester, is too obvious and stereotypical - a touch of subtle restraint may well have proved more credible and persuasive.
The play as a whole certainly offers a chance to consider and reflect on often neglected themes and there's clear evidence of professionality, sensitivity and commitment in the production, which also commendably provides inclusive casting with a disabled actor as part of the ensemble - sadly, all too rare in theatre in general.
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