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Sunday, 5 June 2016

Review: 'Minefield', Royal Court Theatre

Director, Lola Arias' 'productions play with the overlap between reality and fiction'. This was cleverly portrayed in her new production of 'Minefield' performed at the Royal Court Theatre in association with LIFT Festival.

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In the standing ovation that greeted the company as they took their bows it was as if the audience had been granted access into the personal lives of these remarkable war veterans now in their 50's. This powerfully emotive work of art was all the more raw and real as the 'actors' themselves were war veterans of the 'Falklands War': Argentinian soldiers who spoke in their native language with English surtitles and English soldiers who spoke accompanied by Spanish surtitles. Due to the nature of the production the veterans talked in a conversational manner to the audience - as if they were not reading from a script nor being 'very good actors'. An intense, powerfully real, informative and engaging history lesson. The piece would have lost all poignancy and reality if the production had been performed in verbatim. This made it all the more real creating a connection with each person even if thirty odd years ago they had been enemies.  There was a great sense of unity among those performing ' we wanted to kill each I'd have a beer with you'. The scene in which each veteran shouted to the other, the wrong-doings and failings of each side like a petty school playground argument created that great sense of satire. The use of caricatures of Margaret Thatcher and General Galtieri also highlighted this. This dark humour successfully offset the turmoil and gritty true accounts that the play explored.

The production gave a personal and raw insight into these individual's lives as real people rather than the fictitious characters we often create when hearing about stories of wartime. The production drew on many Brechtian influences: using mixed media of live video projected onto a large screen that dominated the stage, live rock music by the talented veterans themselves and simple sound effects, hand-made models and re-enactment. The set and costume changes were done in full view of the audience, each scene told it's own story and was signified by a projection title and scene changes marked with interludes of live music. Each individual's stories were portrayed through collaborative re-enactment using minimal props; souvenirs from the war including letters, wallets, propaganda magazine. During the play each veteran reflected on their time during the rehearsal process which highlighted the production's devised style and Lola Arias' work belief that came across vividly and successfully in this new production:

"War isn’t what interests me, it’s what comes after the war that interests me. What matters to me is what happens to a person who went through that experience. What matters to me is what memory has done, what it has erased, what it has transformed."- Lola Arias

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A rousing performance of Reuben's masterful drumming solo was surprisingly emotive and moving where amid the loud thrashing drums, dry ice, flashing lights and projected photograph he shouted out statistics of those who lost their lives. In a similar effect the play was brought to a crashing end with a live rock performance of a song with the harshly screamed lyrics  'Have you ever been to war? 'Have you held a dying friend in your arms?' 'Have you had to kill someone?'. The effect was suffocating like that of a battlefield.

The play was testament to those who fought in the Falklands war but also highlighted how society has done very little in supporting those living still with the trauma of war.

'Minefield' is running at the Royal Court Theatre, London from 2nd June-11th June 2016