All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Remarque adapted by Incognito Theatre Company
Incognito Theatre Company
The Vaults (crescent) Leake Street
The recent rise of a more militant nationalism across Europe might again resurrect the words we hear spoken to German teenagers in the early part of Incognito Theatre’s minimalist, visually striking play, All Quiet on the Western Front.
As they are being sent off to die in the First World War, they are told, “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. How sweet and fitting it is to die for the fatherland”.
But the dramatisation of Erich Remarque’s novel shows us war is anything but sweet. In a fluent, very physical performance, the actors as teenage recruits take us through the stupidity of the training, the pointless frontline battles, the moments of banter and their growing cynicism about the whole business.
One of them says, “the war has fucked it for all of us. We were… just learning to love the world... and then we had to shoot it to bits.”
Moments of relief on the front are rare, but, sent to guard a supply depot, the men take a short-lived opportunity to roast a pig and wonder if ever they will be free of the war that has become their life. Even when the central character Paul goes on leave, he carries the war with him and feels disconnected from his community.
This polished, well choreographed performance never rests and, if the horror is distanced by the swiftness of scenes and our fleeting glimpse of the many characters, it never loses our attention, never loses its focus on the “chaos of war”, the terrible waste of good people, something the warmongers who haunt the establishment would like us to ignore.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna