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Days of Significance

by on 16 November 2019

Military Engagements: Play of Significance

Days of Significance

by Roy Williams

The Questors at The Studio, Ealing until 23rd November

Review by Viola Selby

Through Lucy Aley-Parker’s direction, Roy Williams’ Days of Significance is made even more terrifyingly raw, yet captivatingly compelling, as the lives of young and ill-prepared soldiers sent off to fight in the Iraq war are laid bare.

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Starting off on a boozed-up Saturday night, the audience is straight away assaulted with shouting and screaming, constant swearing and a lot of urination and puking. A scene many of us know all too well yet not so much from a play setting, especially one which bases its inspiration from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, helping to instantly surprise the audience and grab our attention. The actors also do not hold back, fully committing themselves to the drunk revelries and fighting scenes. Yet in a mesmerising way that also shows the superficial masks of their characters occasionally slipping to reveal the fears and vulnerabilities of these young people, a skill definitely shown by Joshua Perry and Matthew Saldanha, who play Jamie and Ben the two members of the group who go off to war. Perry and Saldanha manage to carefully convey their characters’ developments in an emotionally mature way; from being lads showing off their bravado as a front to their mates, to two young boys thrown into the heat of battle, no longer knowing what is wrong and what is right as they just try to survive.

This sudden scene change, from a fun night out in England to an active war zone in Iraq, makes the scenes that follow all the more shocking as it is not what we as viewers were expecting. The shock is also made more real by the use of just one set design used so creatively throughout the play by set designer Georgia Wilmott; a single wall that once represented the front of Lenny’s burger bar, now acts the only protection for a seriously injured officer and his three soldiers, all waiting to be rescued – a cutting scene that is professionally performed by Perry and Saldanha with Jason Lynch-Welch and Karl Knarr.

However, this section of the play is also given the most personal of scenes through the ingenious use of a projector and TV screen, made real by Gavin Jones and Terry Mummery. On the screen we are shown ‘home videos’ at the camp, made by Saldanha’s character Ben for his girlfriend Trish back home. In the first of these, the boys are messing about, jokingly humping each other and making fun of a naughty picture Ben’s girlfriend has sent him. In the other, we see a much-changed Ben, desperately clinging on to some normality and trying to make sense of what is going on. This change is extremely harrowing and is conducted in a sensitive and thought-provoking way.

Finally, we are brought back to England some months later to see the awful after-effects of the Iraq war whilst at a fun and booze filled wedding of two members of the group we met at the beginning. We find out from the two boys who went to war that one did not make it, and is now regarded as a hero by all, whilst the other faces jail time and court cases for the well-documented atrocities committed by soldiers on Iraqi prisoners. Again the drunk acting is done with such devotion and detail that it makes one question the sober levels of the actors themselves. Even through all the merriment, Roselle Hirst and Fiona Gough as Ben and Jamie’s girlfriends Trish and Hannah, are particularly sublime in their ability to show the anger, confusion and grief behind their characters’ drinking, highlighting even more just how vulnerable these young people truly are. However it is through arguments and monologues of support and experience given by such characters as Dan and Lenny, each played with such perfect passion by Bradley Peake and Julian Casey, that truly makes the audience question everything they ever thought both about what happened in Iraq and who was at fault. This is not just any old war time play, this is definitely a play of significance.

Viola Selby
November 2019

Photography by Jane Arnold-Forster

One Comment
  1. Chris permalink

    Watched on opening night. Mainly well acted and thoroughly enjoyable. However, I felt the actor playing Jaime was not entirely convincing in the role. I know this is amateur dramatics, but the rest of the cast were so strong you have to question why one of the main roles was not given to one of the obviously stronger actors on stage.
    That is a minor criticism, I’m not saying the actor was bad, just not right for the role he was given.

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