Devilish Accord Productions
The Kings Arms, Salford
Former solider William (Andrew Bentley) uses his home as a Citadel: a place of sanctuary from the outside world with which he struggles to engage.
Since returning injured from Afghanistan, William has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which manifests in agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and crippling panic attacks. Amanda (Beth Hunter), the friend of William’s lodger Justin (Corin Silva), is constantly trying to persuade William to take part in social events. However, Amanda’s motives may not be purely compassionate.
Clearly, the objective of Citadel is to raise awareness of mental health issues. Although author David Chriscole is passionate about the subject, the tone of the play is understated. Chriscole avoids sensationalism and does not allow the play to descend into a dry lecture. The story takes the form of a classic romantic triangle and the vivid, stark manner in which the symptoms of William’s illness are set out—particularly the confusing sense of feeling isolated while surrounded by other people—increases the emotional impact.
William describes his recovery as a work in progress and that is how Andrew Bentley plays the character. There is a frailty in Bentley’s performance—the hesitant movements of someone flinching away from potential harm.
Director Grace Cordell tales a physical approach to the play exposing emotions that characters are trying to conceal in series of mimes. Twisted, anguished movements by the cast wordlessly reflect the despair felt by Justin after the rejection of his romantic advances, Amanda’s guilt and the nightmares suffered by William. It is as if the unconscious feelings of the characters are bursting through to the surface.
Dramatically, Citadel is not as satisfying as one might hope. It is hard to accept William could forgive Amanda for sneaking into his medical records and effectively studying him like a laboratory specimen and one cannot help but feel her past behaviour ought to deter him from entering into a relationship. Justin’s sudden jealousy feels contrived; after all, he has been friends with Amanda for years yet never made his feelings known. The motives for Amanda developing from being manipulative to caring are not explored so her change in behaviour is a bit hard to accept.
Although the plot of Citadel is not completely convincing, it is a strong effort to raise awareness of mental health issues, very well acted, and directed.
Reviewer: David Cunningham