Eloise Lally Productions in association with Theatre503
The wars Bush and Blair waged against Afghanistan and Iraq have caused havoc, but even they can’t be blamed for some of the strange things that go on in Louise Gooding’s Gold Coast.
The character Joe (Tommy Burgess) is an army reservist back from a 2001 stint in Afghanistan. He is clearly very disturbed. Perhaps he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
His partner Roz (Olivia Bromley) says to him in a way that lets the audience know that “you’ve been in the war. Terrible things happen. I watched it on the news.”
The play takes us through key family moments in the war years and into 2016. There is also a flashback to 1993 when Joe’s father back from the first Gulf War raves about water and exhibits similar symptoms to Joe before he hangs himself.
But Joe lives in more enlightened times so he gets a British and an American military doctor. His partner also gets him to see a New Age therapist. She is proudly anti-war claiming to have marched with the millions against war on 15 February 2002, exactly one year before that demonstration actually took place.
The military doctors are threatening. The British one says she knows what he has done (something with “the ragheads”) while the US doctor demands to know what he has done. Neither is particularly helpful and after a while they throw off their clothes and have sex. Perhaps this was a peculiar metaphor for US/UK relations.
The New Age therapist is a bit friendlier though her therapy consists of masturbating Joe and tearing up his family pictures. Was this meant to be a metaphor for something?
Joe’s family are understandably strained so it is fortunate that Roz’s work as a schoolteacher requires her to be sent to Australia. (Probably one of Theresa May’s manifesto pledges.)
Meanwhile, Joe wanders round looking painfully constipated (to some extent all the characters look somewhat constipated) and recalls when he was 13 how a male teacher wanted to kiss him and sadly wonders “why he left me” suddenly vanishing from school midterm.
Over in Australia in 2016, his 13-year-old daughter Lisa (Olivia Bromley) is troubled. She hooks up online with a paedophile that gets her to strip online. Later, she is online chatting to odd dwarf-like hoodies about Middle East beheadings and her plans to go somewhere to do some extreme thing we suspect involves suicide.
Clearly she needs the strong wise figure of a Dad who knows about suffering.
Everything looks desperate when Joe finds salvation in a small inanimate pink bunny that he talks to for a few sessions that relieve his constipation.
To find out if it is in time to save his daughter you have to see the play.
That will involve you having to listen to a lot of fragmentary, unbelievable dialogue. Some of it is simply bits of sentences that some writers wrongly think resembles speech. Then there are lines like “shadow find the essence” which made me wonder if this was an attempt to invent a new form of English.
This is not really a play about war. Nor is it about trauma or family relations. None of the characters or what they say is plausible. It is simply a mess.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna