Lines Review, Yard Theatre

Lines: Photo by Ben Hopper

Founder and Artistic Director of the Yard Theatre Jay Miller directs a new play by Pamela Carter about four young soldiers waiting to become heroes. Rather than exploring the drama of the battlefield, this topical new play focusses on barracks life in peacetime. 2015 is the first time in over 100 years that the British Army is not at war. But what happens to the soldiers when there’s no battle to fight?

This is a captivating ensemble piece, driven by the physical rhythms of life in the barracks – be if the consumption of lucozade, using the phone or working out. Similarly the dialogue is woven tight, with everyday banter spiked with dark humour and menacing undertones.

In the second act, the tension, anxiety and paradoxical sense of longing for war that exists during peace time is artfully unpacked. Lines is reminiscent of the film Jarhead: the waiting, that state of preparedness, is almost as tortuous as the experience of war itself.

Each member of the youthful cast (Ncuti Gatwa as Valentine, Tom Gill as Perk, Tony Clay as Locke and Robbie O’Neill as Mackay) give powerful and captivating performances. In particular Robbie O’Neill’s cheeky, confident Mackay shows natural leadership as he delivers soulful monologues and witty asides.

A simple but well used set, coupled with video footage of the soldiers on the battlefield overhead emphasises this purgatory-like existence.

There is also the ghost of Ibsen lurking here, with much, almost all, of the action happening off-stage. In the final act, what is revealed to be a crashing anti-climax shows Pamela Carter at her peak, deftly depicting the fantasy, mythology and propaganda that solders itself to the heroic dream. Carter has drawn believable characters here, with each soldier-in-training carrying their personal history into this new environment. The way in which these histories unfold into the drama weaves human threads around the fragile nexus of war.

Powerful and provocative, this is a real gem.

A boundary-breaking fringe theatre, The Yard is well worth a visit, even if you’re not an East Londoner. The sellout success of recent plays The Mikvah Project and Beyond Caring (which transferred to the National Theatre to another round of rave reviews), has built quite the buzz for the new Autumn Season at the Yard. Book fast: Lines is set to be another sellout.

First published on Culture Whisper.

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