Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Theatre review: Glory Dazed

Second Shot is a theatre company that works with prisoners, and Cat Jones' Glory Dazed is a piece developed with ex-servicemen in jail, attempting to shine a light on why so many of them end up there. The scene is a grubby pub in Doncaster, where landlord Simon (Adam Foster) habitually waters down the spirits, and new barmaid Leanne (Kristin Atherton) is far from the brightest spark. Soon after closing, Simon is clearing up when Ray (Samuel Edward-Cook) bangs on the door, demanding to speak to Carla (Chloe Massey,) a customer who's hanging around after hours. Carla is his ex-wife, and Ray has returned to try and get her back - an ambition that probably won't be helped much by the fact that he's shown up drunk, sweating, shouting and covered in someone else's blood.

Glory Dazed looks at a part of society where the only options for young men sometimes seem to be the army or prison, but as Ray's story shows, joining the former may just make the latter all the more inevitable.

This is a compact piece that focuses on how his horrific experiences in Afghanistan have affected Ray's relationships back at home. Not just with his ex-wife, but also with the somewhat fey Simon. Having always joked about him being gay, Ray is in for a shock when he discovers Simon is now dating Carla, who's reacted to being abused by an alpha male by turning to someone seemingly his polar opposite. As well as serving as an example of people who've started in the same place and lived their lives very differently, Simon and Carla also help avoid focusing the play's sympathies too strongly on the ex-soldier: Although Jones shows an appreciation throughout for the fact that Ray's behaviour is largely a result of trauma, he's not let entirely off the hook and there's people there to remind him that you don't have to be in combat to live with uncertainty.

There's some good performances in Elle While's production, particularly from Edward-Cook who exudes a real physical threat from the off, and if anything becomes even more frightening when he turns on the charm in an attempt to get the teenage barmaid drunk. The play's conclusion, that not all the scars that come back from Afghanistan and Iraq are as visible as a missing limb, feels like a frequently-explored one. But even if this isn't the first piece to criticise the lack of care for ex-soldiers who've been traumatised, it's a well put-together one.

Glory Dazed by Cat Jones is booking until the 11th of May at Soho Theatre Upstairs.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes straight through.

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