Friday, 12 December 2014
Theatre review: Fear in a Handful of Dust
COG ARTSpace is a new theatre out in the hipster boondocks of Haggerston, and lumbered with a terrible name, but on the plus side, and unusually for a pub theatre, the audience does get to sit on what are recognisably chairs, and don't require one buttock to be surgically removed to fit on them. Isa Shaw-Abulafia's design uses a narrow traverse to create the trench the men are stuck together in.
Greene's play uses the familiar set-up of a rather prissy, inexperienced Englishman thrown together with a gruff, confident Irishman, but then uses the two of them in a surprisingly low-key way that means it avoids playing out like a cliché. The two do clash as Buck believes the Irish regiments are used as cannon fodder to avoid harming the English troops, but as Simon identifies more with the Indian regiments he's been kept away from, it doesn't turn into a big dramatic argument.
Instead what we get is quite a sweet, short-lived friendship, Jonny Collis' production toying with a homoerotic edge without labouring it, as we see the two having to get very close very quickly - Simon has to strip naked to rid his uniform of fleas, while the only way he has at hand to sterilise Buck's bullet wound is by pissing on it.
There's also a scene of a gas attack, which it now seems to me is something that's been alluded to but we've seen surprisingly few attempts to stage in this year's cavalcade of Great War plays. Fear in a Handful of Dust covers ground that's been well-trodden in the last year but with its story of a short-lived but genuine friendship, touchingly performed by the two actors, it stakes out its own identity.
Fear in a Handful of Dust by Sevan K. Greene is booking until the 9th of January at COG ARTSpace.
Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.