Yesterday’s Tomorrow at the Drayton Arms
Yesterday’s Tomorrow tells the story of two NATO peacekeeping soldiers during the Kosovo crisis. Based on real events, the short 70-minute play describes the horrors of war and the waste of life that it entails. Written by ex-RAF serviceman Gene David Kirk, the playwright’s premiere offering for the reopening of the Drayton Arms Theatre in Kensington is a heartfelt, albeit not entirely satisfying portrait of love and war.
The events in question are a collection of memories that are brought to life before us through the words of protagonist Ian, played eloquently by Ben Carpenter. As the nightmarish visions become increasingly vivid, he is transported back to his days in service, where he meets John – played with intensity by Matthew Schmolle. They form a close friendship while patrolling the hellish war zone, inadvertently discovering that they are in love with each other. The two are predictably subjected to the prejudice of the armed forces against homosexuals, personified by swaggering, brutish Simon (Nicholas Waters). Innocent youth – in love with the heroics of the life of a soldier – is typified in the character of naive, hard-working Paul (River Hawkins), who after three months of training has been sent straight to the combat zone. Throughout, Ian is plagued by nightmares provoked by the horrific memories of the brutalities of war, symbolised by the figure of a defenceless girl (Provence Maydew) who disappears and reappears intermittently.
Director Hamish Macdougall has brought out strong performances from all, but the standout is Schmolle for his beautiful portrayal of masculine vulnerability. Depicting such an epic and visual backdrop on stage is not an easy one. The production team however have created an interesting solution by way of a bare stage (the attic-like first floor of the Drayton Arms pub) littered with cardboard boxes that are filled with or emptied of the memories contained therein. It is a testament to the magic of theatre that the actors are able to, with minimal means and solid performances, help you imagine in your mind the scenery around them.
The play itself is strong in its depiction of the love between Ian and John, though its portrayal of war is less convincingly fleshed out. The piece is nevertheless artistically daring, and one looks forward to the company’s future endeavours.
Photos: Invisible Darkness
Yesterday’s Tomorrow is at the Drayton Arms Theatre until 31st May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.