Directed by Deborah Mulhall
542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 22 - 26 September
We Fight, We Win, We Carry On…
It may be the English way to ‘carry on’ in the face of adversity, conveying an air of nobility and resolution. Yet we must consider whether the mindless obedience to orders in warfare can ever truly be noble, or whether it inevitably leads to both internal and external destruction. Deborah Mulhall’s production of Britannia Waves the Rules engages with a plethora of issues in the discussion of the morality of warfare, entrancing the audience with its poeticism and yet not shying away from depicting the brutality of war.
In a small place like Blackpool, England, young people may feel like they are trapped with limited job prospects and no way to escape – then the army comes along promising to show you the world, as you receive training and a good salary. Joining the army seems to hold all the answers for Carl, dripping with newfound excitement for the life ahead of him. However once he reaches Afghanistan, he begins to see things in a different light.
A splendid dichotomy between language and physical action is embodied in the work, through Carl’s contrasting aspirations. The brutality of war is juxtaposed against the striking lyricism of Carl’s poetic endeavours, and this disparity is further enhanced through his poetry itself. Vincent Andriano’s performance as Carl is spellbinding as he seethes with anger and frustration, until he channels this emotion on the battlefield with unsettling results. With admirable fitness and energy, Andriano never tires but rather captivates the audience with his story. Andriano is supported with a strong cast on all fronts, with Jane Angharad as Goldie and Alan Faulkner as Carl’s Father personifying the rigid disconnect between life at war and the return to home. Nick Rowe and Patrick Cullen take on multiple roles, but especially serve to develop the atmosphere at war, with success.
Gareth Farr’s writing in this play is undoubtedly exquisite. But this production does not rest on its laurels. The actors exert their all to bring this story to life, to the point that the audience feels a deep empathetic response to the characters’ experiences. Ultimately, Britannia Waves the Rules speaks to a resounding sense of hopelessness. This hopelessness is arresting, and demands a response, no matter how bleak the outlook. The vast disconnect between acceptability in our society and acceptability at war forces soldiers into actions that unnerve any reasonable person. This work begs the question - when must it end?