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War clichés abound in tale of four squaddies



Review by David Munro

WELCOME Home purports to follow the course of four squaddies in the Parachute regiment and their corporal from the time they prepare to disembark until their return at the end of the Falkland’s war.

The individual soldiers are, as one would expect, stereotyped.

The bluff insensitive macho man, Walters, played by Danny Hornigold; Dennis , the decent family man (Gareth Taylor); the young lad, Polo (Rachid Sabitri), who covers his fear with an obsession with pop music and its exponents and the more intellectual type, Goldy (Tim Hewitt).

Their Corporal , Sharp (Ian Coop) is a decent, but basically insecure man, who attempts to disguise this under a brusque and sadistic attitude to his squad.

The climax of the play is the burial of a comrade whose body is brought back to England and which provokes an outburst from Goldy as to the futility of war and causes Polo to disgrace himself in some manner at the ceremony, resulting in an hysterical breakdown.

Both of which result in a confrontation between the men and the Corporal with drawn knives and a lot of improbable dialogue before the curtain falls on the Corporal overcoming his insecurity and being prepared to show a glimmering of humanity and understanding of the men’s fears and problems.

As will be gathered from the summary above, this play is a polemic on the effect that war and conflict have upon decent men and how it robs them of their self-respect and results in the weakest going to the wall of nervous breakdowns and possible suicide.

Like all tracts of this nature, realism is jettisoned for the sake of the argument.

This is no Journey’s End and, to be fair to it, I do not think it sets out to be.

However, whether it succeeds on its own terms of reference, I rather doubt, the most effective character, possibly because it was the best-acted role, is the corporal who is a simple man overcome by the weight of command and not knowing how to equate this with his wish to be 'one of the boys'.

Ian Coop manages to portray the sensitive man under the sadistic mask by tonal inflections and body language, admirably.

As Goldy, Tim Hewitt does not quite convince in either his big scene, when he threatens to burn the flag on the coffin, or when he rails against the inhumanity which has destroyed Polo.

He is not helped by his dialogue which is, to put it politely, fustian, nor the direction, which makes him deliver the two big speeches as if he were auditioning for the part.

It may be that as the run continues, he will get the measure of the role, as he showed in the quieter moments he is an intelligent actor and worthy of better material.

Similarly, Rachid Sabitri’s Polo is every young man with the 'who breaks down under stress' cliché beloved by Hollywood moguls to demonstrate the potential of their up and coming stars.

Sadly, in the theatre this does not work, and I found his breakdown embarrassing to watch, although until then I had enjoyed his performance.

Danny Hornigold and Gareth Taylor extracted the maximum going from their underwritten parts, which were really stooges for the three main protagonists' pyrotechnics.

All in all, it was a frustrating evening. All five actors had potential which the play and the direction never realised.

If one is prepared to take that into account and make allowances for it, then it is an interesting 90 minutes of theatre, even if only to be present at what could be the beginning of five promising careers.

Welcome Home, by Tony Marchant; Director, Joe Austin.
CAST: Gareth Taylor; Tim Hewitt; Rachid Sabitri; Ian Coop; Danny Hornigold.
Landor Theatre , 70 Landor Road, London, SW9 9PH.
Box Office: 020 7737 7276.

 

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