Days of Significance
Royal Shakespeare Company
Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, and touring
Roy Williams' outstanding 2007 play Days of Significance, revived for this national tour by the RSC, is both an arresting portrayal of the inebriated heart of urban Britain and an unnerving expose of the lads we send to war, shamefully ill-equipped in just about every conceivable way. Williams' story-telling, here loosely inspired by Much Ado About Nothing, bombards his audience with conflicting emotions: the relentless carnage of inner-city night life as well as the pitiful vulnerability of those at its bloodied heart.
Williams doesn't shrink from the issue of Iraq which runs through the heart of this play. His squaddies' booze- and adrenalin-fuelled "Saddam's a cunt" goes head-to-head with the mouthy undergraduate's no less gracelessly delivered, "How is he in breach of UN regulations?...You're going to get bitch-slapped".
This, then, is theatre with real currency: Williams' uncomfortable social and political commentary is worthy of attention and is delivered here in the RSC's impressive package. Maria Aberg directs with conviction, and is brilliantly showcased by the urban soullessness of Lizzie Clachan's design. And in particular, Malcolm Ranson's fight sequences pack a startlingly realistic punch.
Some of the original cast are still here, most notably Simon Harrison's perfectly pitched Steve and Luke Norris' edgy Dan. But if anything lets this production down, it's that there are too few occasions where the cast drop the black and white extremities of rage and fear to explore the emotional shades of grey which make Williams' characters so compelling.
George Rainsford's Jamie is the most notable exception: laying his heart open to dance with Hannah in an alley behind a nightclub; catatonic with fear when cornered in Basra; brutalised by six months in a war zone, and finally buckling under the pain of being ostracised by everyone back home when he returns to face charges of war crimes.
Runs at the Sherman Cymru until 21 November then tours to Salford
David Chadderton reviewed this production at Salford
Reviewer: Allison Vale