Part of the Write Now season
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Tom Green's Fighting is a not unworthy piece but it left me wondering if it had been intended to take a different form from the one it has. There are three strands to the action - soldiers that come under live attack whilst believing they are on exercise, a journalist manipulated in the name of national security and a father searching for the place where his son died in battle. The key here is that the strands run in three true parallels never crossing or connecting and any relationship between them is an implication made by the observer.
In a drama that seeks to question which account of the truth we can rely on it is a justifiable technique but the structure - or its execution - has some failings for a one act theatre piece. The play is short and the three unbalanced storylines can feed little off each other to fill out background and provide overall weight. Inevitably the eight characters are shallowly drawn, one or two verging on stereotype, and the themes are explored with unsatisfyingly little detail. I was left with the sense that there could have been more, and there needs to be more: is this a two act play which ran out of steam or a play for television, the techniques of which could have provided more substance?
If I sound overly critical it is not intentional. Fighting is part of the Brockley Jack's inaugural new writing season and by definition the play has never before been performed and tested in front of an audience: honed perfection is not expected or in a way even desired. Green clearly has talent, imagination and a healthy disrespect for writing norms all of which are to be welcomed and encouraged.
Fighting is directed by Kate Bannister, artistic director of the Brockley Jack and the director of their recent sell-out production of A Christmas Carol. Her blocking which blurs the lines between where the stage finishes and the audience's space begins reflects the themes of the piece, and the battle effects from sound designer Joe Churchman are an effective contrast to the otherwise undecorated soundscape. Karl Swinyard's set design opens up the performing space and intimates a suitably unspecific desert-like setting, although it is a little let down by the lighting designer who could have suggested the night-time cave setting with something a little more atmospheric.
More than two millennia ago Aeschylus said "in war, truth is the first casualty", a truism that is now a cliché since, in our 24-hour news society, we all accept that to quench our apparent thirst for real-time information some aspect of truth will be sacrificed. What Tom Green's play does is remind us that behind press briefings, speculation, leaks and spin, the real truth is "stuff happens" to people.
The Write Now season continues with "The Bitch from Brixton" by Kate Gallon and Kate-Lynn Hocking which runs Tuesday to Saturday until 6th March. Suitable for over 16s only.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti