Love and war have been compared often enough for us to feel on familiar territory with Lavonne Mueller's play – and, as we know, all's fair in both. The theatre of conflict here is a monochrome hotel room where married American army colonel Mark meets his former mistress – and his late C.O.'s daughter – Kim, ostensibly for the last time. As the final twelve hours pass, we learn how they feel now (he bitter with her for leaving him, she jealous of his wife's unborn child) and how their relationship evolved through Kim's misshapen army childhood, "mothered" by Mark and alert to her power as Daddy's girl even in war zones.
Irina Brook, as Kim, creates an unsettling child-woman air, with the kind of gauche coquettishness employed with less precision by Madonna; she relishes the American accent, strokes a bedknob suggestively but – in an action which encapsulates Kim's character – wistfully embraces herself with the empty sleeves of Mark's jacket hung over the chair on which she sits. Michael J. Shannon gives Mark a persistent unease; whether feeding oatmeal to the young Kim or resisting the advances of her adult version, his face is granite, but the widening cracks remain visible.
Their intensifying war of nerves – the violent peace of the title – is well charted, although Mueller shoehorns too much in: the boss's-daughter syndrome and an element of Lolita-style nymphet eroticism figure as well as the controlling theme, and when Kim speaks of the sexuality of martial language (squeezing off a shot, pumping an M-16) we've long since got the point. Irina Brown's production, too, feels cramped in the DoC, as if the play's emotional concentration demands a scale of performance which won't always sit in this 60-seat pub theatre. However, Ms Brook's dramatic rehabilitation after her unfortunate '80s is well in hand.
Written for the London Evening Standard.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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