Johnny Got His Gun
Essi Rossi after Dalton Trumbo
Rossi, Holopainen, Riikonen in association with From Start to Finnish
Based on Dalton Trumbo’s 1938 novel, Johnny Got His Gun details Joe Bonham’s plight as he writhes and rages on a hospital bed with his limbs and face destroyed by a hand grenade, unable to see, hear or communicate in any way other than beating his head against his pillow in the hope someone will understand.
Told against a wall of fluorescent lights with few props other than the clinically shining steel table and a microphone stand, this performance re-reckons the anti-war parable through a timeless lens. This Joe is a rockstar bedroom teenager, in a ripped t-shirt and with a bubbling enthusiasm for life that is as infectious as it is tragic with a soundtrack that skews news reports and fragments of political speeches from the last century, right up to modern day.
Johannes Holopainen’s performance shows a near mercurial physicality that far outreaches the constraints of his body seeming at times to be tiny, cowering under the hospital bed, and at others, towering over the audience like a giant. A spinning, cavorting, giant of barely repressed energy, only to deflate like the ghost of a whisper to interact with the crowd and gently tap or touch a hand or arm.
It’s a painful, sometimes uncomfortably comic and strangely hopeful ponderance on the horrors of war and conflict and the endurance of the human soul over unimaginable pain and tragedy. A beautiful and powerful piece of theatre that leaves you as breathless and stunned as you could possibly want.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan