The Smirnoff Underbelly, Edinburgh
August, 2002

*** Solid but rather pointless verse drama about war

Lauded on its première here in 1999, Ivo Stourton's play blends several wars into one in an overblown blank verse drama.

The setting seems to be the Vietnam war, but the story is driven by faction-fighting among the U.S. Marines, with two groups led by Sergeants Lancaster and York respectively (Sgt York, eh?). York is involved with a Vietnamese prostitute called Kassandra, recalling the Trojan War.  And at one point a General Grant gets mentioned. Clearly, Stourton is going out of his way to make this the archetype of all wars.

Stourton wrote the play as a teenager, and it's a precocious bit of work. He tries to blend Shakespearean rhetoric with contemporary references, with results often awkward or sounding accidentally like third-rate Berkoff. The company from Double Edge Drama mainly turn in performances which match the scale of the language rather than their characters; only Tom Mison's York emerges as any more than an M16-toting orator. Most of all, one can't see why the play demanded to be written. Yes, war is hell, and yes, there are sinister "friendly fire" incidents, and yes, Stourton has a fierce intelligence. But it's one of those "What's the point?" plays in the end.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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