Glory Dazed at Soho Theatre
Reading before lights down that Glory Dazed is the first full-scale production from Second Shot makes what follows even more impressive. Created through workshops and discussion groups with ex-servicemen in Doncaster Prison and Young Offenders Institute, this gritty and gripping play explores why so many men return from active service, only to end up in the prison system.
Set in a Doncaster pub after doors closing, we meet Ray, a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan, covered in someone else’s blood, and trying to get his ex-wife back in the least romantic way possible. They are joined in this four-hander by teenage barmaid Leanne, who Ray tricks into inebriation, and pub landlord and old friend Simon, who isn’t as friendly as he once was.
What makes this play different from many of its predecessors (particularly the internationally successful Black Watch) is that it does not glamorise the army or war in any way. In fact, for much of the play, it does quite the opposite, leaving the British press’s defensive attitude that all soldiers returning from war are automatically heroes bleeding in the dust: there are no heroes here. Instead, there are four people who, over the course of just 60 minutes, are all damaged by Ray’s traumatic experiences. The play also questions why people sign up for the army in the first place, and the answer is provided by young barmaid Leanne, who says of her brother “it’s the army or prison” – a statement that Ray comes to epitomise.
Samuel Edward-Cook gives a blistering performance as Ray, anger and fear jostling with a gentler side, which hints at the man he was before the war. Chloe Massey, as Carla his ex-wife, also delivers all the goods as she portrays a woman torn between stability and thrilling danger.
Cat Jones’ script fizzes with ideas and isn’t afraid to tackle the complex arguments raised by such a divisive topic. The fact that the play was developed with ex-servicemen lends a validity it may not have otherwise had. Although for the first 20 minutes or so it seems similar to many other plays about returning soldiers, the fact that Glory Dazed is brave enough to address questions other plays may have avoided makes it a must-see for anyone who wants to know about the social impact of modern warfare.
Photos: Carys Lavin
Glory Dazed is at the Soho Theatre until 11th May 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.