Sleeping Soldiers

Too Many Cooks (Boston & Glasgow)

C Chambers Street

From 31 July 2013 to 10 August 2013

Rating: ***

Review by Graeme Strachan

It wouldn't be the Fringe without some companies looking into the eternal mine of fascination that is the effect of war on the minds of soldiers and civilians in war.

In this case it's a well-intentioned and heartfelt piece from Too Many Cooks, a company working for free and donating the show's take to the women's charity Women for Women International. For that alone they deserve some credit, but the piece holds a dignity and intelligence that sets it apart from the run-of-the-mill Fringe fare.

Inspired by a photo series of the same name, taken by the late Tim Hetherington, it's a exercise in nightmarish daydreaming and semi-lucid philosophy abstracting the gossamer-thin connection between the dreams of Jim, a soldier serving in Afghanistan and a local woman Anoosheh.

The play evokes much of the action through some ingenious and entertaining physical theatre, while the rest of the tale is told through monologues, snippets of voiceover and a few short moments of performed dialogue. The intent is clear enough, from the disturbing comments of an embittered fellow soldier, to the wide-eyed idealism of Anoosheh's daughter. The fragmentary tale creates an atmosphere without ever really weaving enough of a tale from it to really capture the audience completely.

While the performance is enthralling, the lighting and sound clear and evocative and even the bleak but meaningfully set design, with a stark metal tree, wrapped in flags and hung with dogtags, makes clear the meaning that is intended. It unfortunately never quite transcends the barrier of the stage, as the various prop movements and the fractured storytelling and unclear timeline simply hold it back from the brink of brilliance.