Tense, difficult, wonderful drama
By Margaret Wieringa
The house lights have been brought down slowly. The audience remains in the quiet and dark for a long moment before the lights snap on and three actors stand, staring off stage: inert, but not quite frozen. Then banging and shouting from offstage, fear flashes on their faces, and the tension of the next hour or so is set.
Premiering in Australia after winning awards as a radio drama and during its season at the Edinburgh Festival, Glory Dazed by Cat Jones is the story of a soldier returned from serving in Afghanistan who cannot settle back into life in Northern England.
It is Andre De Vanny as ex-soldier Ray who carries this performance, capturing all of the anger, fear and vulnerability of a displaced young man who feels hard-done by his circumstances – but demands to be acknowledged. It is a familiar character, the type of man who you may see in a pub or stumbling down the street and you know to avoid because his emotions are expressed through aggression and derision. In the tiny theatre at Red Stitch, it is impossible to escape, and De Vanny made this a wonderfully difficult play to watch.
While Ray is a man I don’t want to encounter, it is the other characters that I empathise with, trapped with this unpredictable time-bomb. Jonathan Peck captures the vulnerability of Simon who is no physical match for Ray, yet needs to find a way to stand up to him. Then there is Leanne, played by Laura Jane Turner, the young staff member who is naïve enough to flirt with the handsome, charming Ray and be taken into his games even when his darker side is revealed. And then Carla. Oh, Carla. Emily Goddard broke my heart as the ex-wife who needs to be free from this animal, yet can see the broken man beneath the bravado.
It was as much the space and the silences that made this performance: director Greg Carroll let the story unfold slowly, with all the pain that this involved. Sometimes, theatre hurts.
Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Season: 23 July – 23 August
Bookings: 9533 8083 or firstname.lastname@example.org