The soldier: the man on whom everyone relies; his fighting colleagues, his Generals and Field Marshals, his countrymen. The man whom we expect, as a nation, to lay down his life for us if need be. The man who, when he comes home, may face many forms of hardship, both financial and mental. And although the nature of warfare may change over the decades and the centuries, the individual experience of the soldier up close to the fighting remains the same – the ultimate test of strength, will, self-belief, cunning, and sheer brassneck.
I’m aware that I’ve described my impression of a soldier at war in purely masculine terms; that’s not to decry female soldiers, it’s just that Dispensable is Ruark Gould’s one-man play and therefore depicts the soldier as a man. He is a man of the past, the present and the future; and this play unites all three to convey just some of the emotions and experiences they have to endure.
In the tiny vault in the basement at Hazlerigg House, the audience sat in two rows, traverse style, as we watched the soldier in his natural environment. It could be a dug-out, a cave, an underground office; the acting space and the performance really complemented each other, and Mr Gould made exceptional use of it to play out the characters’ frustrations, agonies, exercises, and indeed, deaths. Our imagination had to do a lot of the work, but it certainly paid off.
An intriguing performance, with a fascinating music choice to reflect soldiers of all the ages. Technically, I admired Mr Gould’s weapon handling – although I expect if he’d held the butt of his rifle it would have literally gone through the roof. I also appreciated the excellent clarity of his vocal delivery – I don’t always hear everything (getting on, I guess!) so it’s great to be able to relish every word. Structurally, I felt there were a lot of very short scenes, and maybe the audience would have felt even more involved with fewer, longer scenes, just so that they have time to identify with the soldier and the situation he’s facing. Just a small quibble. But overall, I thought it was fascinating, thought-provoking, and very well performed.
P. S. I saw this show on Friday afternoon, 26th May and it was the last Flash Festival show for me this year – I saw all fifteen! Thanks to everyone who worked their hardest to make it a success, from the organisers to the performers, the techies and everyone behind the scenes. It was an amazing four days and I saw some superb talent. Best of luck to everyone for your future careers!