Operation Crucible at the Finborough Theatre
A writing debut from newcomer Kieran Knowles, Operation Crucible is a tale of four steel workers living through the Sheffield Blitz. The heart of Britain’s industrial manufacturing business, Sheffield became the target of strategic bombing in the Second World War. Consequently, the lives of our protagonists are upturned forever.
This play is an account of the struggles of ordinary men plunged into extraordinary circumstances, their sanity, strength and courage put to the test. Recounting the experience before, during and after the raid, Operation Crucible delves into the personal and social lives of four men, revealing their motivations and thoughts through a series of monologues, nostalgic recollection and social interaction. Through this, there is a wider exploration of human nature pushed to the limit, and how one reacts when faced with one of the most difficult emotions: fear. The portrayal of personal endurance matched with the collective experience leads to a wonderful portrayal of the spirit of the war, demonstrating the civilians’ wonderful capacity to keep calm and carry on.
This sharp piece of writing is brought to life by the direction of Bryony Shanahan. Due to an essentially black box space with little to no set or props, Knowles’ words were realised through the actors’ bodies. At times, it almost became a dance, a choreography of mime and words. Despite the occasional slip up, performances were tight and well-rehearsed, and the physical struggle of the everyday work of the steel worker became almost palpable.
All in all an excellent performance. But why this subject? And why now? At first, the Sheffield Blitz doesn’t seem to be entirely relevant. However, perhaps Knowles feels as though an exploration of fear and morale is vital in today’s anxiety-driven world. Maybe he is asking us to look to the past to recognise the importance of camaraderie and friendship. In this, he certainly succeeds.
Operation Crucible is at the Finborough Theatre until 17th December 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.