The Calm at the London Theatre
After a well-received run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival, The Calm lends itself well to the small set up of the London Theatre in New Cross, with its intimate cast of just four actors. With 36 seats and two rows, the audience find themselves immersed in the intense exploration of human relationships at war. Set in a military field hospital on the night before a final push, The Calm explores how people react in response to potential death. This impending doom, however, rarely dominates the performance. Instead, it hovers just above the action, casting its shadow over the entirety of the show. As a consequence of this, the comic relief that often seeps into the dialogue is always quickly shattered by the intense reality that tomorrow might be the end for them all.
For the majority of the play, there are only two people on stage, and the chemistry between the two pairs of actors – Rebecca Marklynn with Simon Stallard, and Jennifer Whitehall with Ethan Taylor – is captivating. Whitehall’s performance is particularly noteworthy, enthralling the audience as she loses certainty in her own identity as the drama progresses. The wartime backdrop could have easily overshadowed the relationships at the centre of the story, but instead the sparsity of the set causes the focus to remain fixed upon the interactions of the two people on stage. The relationships between the two pairs are set up by short, alternating scenes, and although these initially come across as disjointed, they do find their middle ground as the show develops and begin to work well together.
Subtle changes in colour and positioning completely heighten the mood of each scene, an impressive feat for an element of theatre that often goes overlooked. Whilst the lighting provides intensity, the sound effects and music seem to be somewhat unnecessary, often adding a cheesy element to a rather serious and compelling subject. Despite this, the play is a well-performed, intriguing piece that successfully explores human communication within the setting of war, a realm that sits outside the lives of most civilians.
The Calm successfully humanises those who are often dehumanised by their involvement in war, and leaves the audience pondering how people emotionally survive those situations.
The Calm is at the London Theatre from 13th until 18th September 2016, for further information or to book visit here.