FALKLAND - The War The World Forgot

Mon 13th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Georgina Macrae

at 21:39 on 14th Aug 2018

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“It’s never going to be alright.”

'Falkland – The War the World Forgot' should be watched by those who are seeking a serious, well-managed historical drama. Two actors provide heart-felt impressions of the war, including a range of perspectives and character backgrounds. These perspectives develop the play as a story, rather than as a factual account. It can be appreciated by both those with no prior knowledge of the war, and those who experienced the war themselves.

The video compilation at the start, depicting a contemporary context – from Pacman to the first Man on the Moon to Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’s Wedding – seemed too long. It wasn’t helped by the 80s music which I failed to recognise. For me, the music often seemed out-of-place but was the only outlier in an absorbing drama. That said, other members of the audience clearly recognised the tunes and thought them appropriate.

Luke Tudball, who plays Gideon, was convincing, steady, and endearing. His limp, notebook and affection for sheep quickly create a real character on stage. However, the first scenes seemed a little hurried by Heather Bagnall, playing Fitz. However, this apparent nervousness faded after the first few scenes. It also contrasted well with her tenacious acting of Gideon’s wife, and all three characters develop well through the piece. Each draws different sympathies from an observer. Heather switches smoothly between two very different characters, who have dissimilar interactions with Gideon. The threads of family histories and the memories of all three characters seep into the dialogues and give the show life.

Music and videos occasionally broke me out of 'Falkland's otherwise gripping narrative. References to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ are met by the darker and less popular ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’, as Gideon’s wife quips as a more applicable motto. Footage of Margaret Thatcher and projections of historical facts, including statistics and tabloid covers, keep the specific historical context and reality of the trauma at the forefront of the audience’s mind.

Tense moments and flashes of bleak humour mean that the two skilled actors hold the audience’s attention, and the dialogue format gives the show an intensity which almost made me cry. This two-person cast work brilliantly together and, rather than making the stage seem empty or the conversations repetitive, it allows you to connect to these three characters. I’d recommend the show to anyone who’s tiring of shaky productions or cheap laughs. It's watchable, sobering and touching.

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Lottie Hayton

at 09:59 on 15th Aug 2018

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'Falkland – The War the World Forgot' began with some multimedia scene-setting – understandable given its suggestion that knowledge of the Falklands War is lacking. The news headlines of the era lit up the stage to an enjoyable 80s soundtrack of Joan Jett and others. Despite such an introduction, however the first scene between Gideon, a Falkland Island sheep farmer played by Luke Tudball, and ‘Private Patrick Fitzgerald’, a northern Irish Royal Marine played by Heather Bagnall, was initially confusing in both its setting and characterisation. Whilst this was eventually worked through, the plot made scant room to explain the events of the war it purported to memorialise. Another conversation between Gideon and Fitzgerald was suddenly broken off by the sound of screams and explosions. This was only explained by short reference to the Belgrano – a name which, for younger audiences, might retain little or no significance.

Perhaps a reduction in the sometimes gratuitous use of multimedia might have left more room to work into the script some further explanation of these characters’ connection to the real life events of the Falklands War.

'Falkland' nonetheless covered an impressive amount of ground for a two-person cast portraying just three characters: Gideon, Fitzgerald and Helen: Gideon’s wife also played by Bagnall. Also notable was the ability of the actors to emotively conjure a scene with the basic props. Heather Bagnall seemed more at ease in the role of Helen which did make the quick transitions to the role of Gideon somewhat jarring. This was a problem partly exacerbated by the simple costume as Heather was merely ‘Gideon’ sans overcoat and woollen hat.

Overall, however, the characters were drawn effectively and convincingly. Gideon’s backstory as an English emigrant to the Falklands after the Blitz and his father’s shell shock was deftly painted. This allowed for a clever, and still subtle connection between the story of the Falkands and the wider emotive topic of the devastation of all wars. This was only given more emotional resonance by Fitzgerald’s background as a young man growing up in the Irish Troubles. Such interconnections allowed the script to access the lives and views of the islanders themselves, too-often lost in the jingoism and politics surrounding the events. The moving and anti-Argentinian acts of resistance from Helen, such as painting ‘civilian’ on their roof in Gideon’s sheep marking paint, left the strong sense that, in the words of Gideon, the Falklands was England, though “as far away from England as possible.”

Nationalistic sentiments however, gained even more power because they were not left to lie. After more deaths of both young Argentinians and British soldiers Helen questions the sanity of Margaret Thatcher’s decision to “send babies” to fight other “babies”. The directorial decision to spotlight the three characters in a series of monologues as the liberation of the island is led, under Helen’s guidance, at the end of the play, allowed for a strong build up of suspense. This was powerfully dashed by Fitzgerald’s breakdown, after the liberation, leaving hanging the question: “it was justified?...”

The constant questioning and undercutting of nationalistic and jingoistic views as each character wavers then returns to their resolve made this play one which encouraged the audience to turn inwards and question their own response to this war, and to war in general.

It is, then, the events of the Falklands War which lend this piece a great deal of its power. So too, does its multi-faceted take on the age-old question of war’s futility. Its true impact, however lies in the pathos engendered by choosing to hone in on the mundane details of everyday human life, which continue alongside invasion and bloodshed. The sheep marking paint earlier referenced by Helen appears once more as we learn the mines, which Fitzgerald has been digging, has killed one of Gideon’s beloved sheep. “I knew it was one of yours because of the blue paint.” Gideon’s response: “I wanted pink”, encapsulates the ever-jarring juxtaposition of the ordinary and extraordinary which leaves the audience in poignant reflection.

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