Bristol Old Vic – Pink Mist
Thursday 2nd February 2017
The wars seen in Iraq and Afghanistan have for some years been a scourge in our conversation and our homes. We’re still recovering from the aftermath of those ghastly events, though the last few years have seen a surge in works of theatre highlighting elements of those two wars.
Owen Sheers is Wales’ premier poet. Whether its his work on the curriculum, his theatre works Mametz and The Two Worlds of Charlie F or his dip into the novel form with I Saw A Man, his work is everywhere. Here through interviews with ex-servicemen, he has absorbed their stories, their insights and their pain. Originally written for Radio 4, the text is in verse and still very accessible.
Sadly, this production is a fine example of every dynamic element put into place, but somehow remains uninspired. There are some very beautiful moments, but it all appears to fall into a pointless excursion with nothing new to say about the conflict. The only new element is where the name comes from: pink mist is the vapour from a soldier’s blood, after a landline explosion. This simply is not enough.
The piece is choreographed within an inch of its life. Some of the moments remains dynamic, even if bland and repetitive. The three lads seem to join the army on a whim and all appear to regret it. These characters of Taffy (are the Welsh still called this?), Arthur and Hads should be berated for wanting to fight such a fight, as is done by the ones nearest to them. In all fairness…should we feel sorry for people who chose to go to war now and either die, or come back severely wounded? These are serious questions which the play went nowhere near to try and answer.
Pink Mist is a fine example of style over substance. A better work: Days of Significance a play by Roy Williams, tackled the themes of the drinking culture and contemporary warfare in a startling manner. It didn’t rely on the metaphor to make a point and was written at time when Iraq was still news. Now we don’t hear about these two countries, as we have bigger things to worry about.
This is some of Owen’s weakest verse. With run on sentence and cliched imagery (the actors delivery sometimes didn’t help), it’s seems the lighting by Peter Harrison had more vision. The Bristol accents soon became infuriating, with no exit for our ears. Jon Nichols’ music and sound work was highly effective, the screams of people and birds, the gunshots and booming forbearing all added to the work.
What upsets me the most is the lack of understating soldiers have in the creating of mental illnesses by going to war. The whole thing felt like a massive attempt to justify a horrid war, which should never had happen.
Rating: 2 stars
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