All Quiet on the Western Front
“We were eighteen years old, and just learning to love the world and being in it, and then we had to shoot it to bits.” Multi-award winning collective Incognito Theatre return with their critically acclaimed adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s best-selling novel, detailing the intensely detrimental physical and psychological effects of World War I, of which Remarque himself was a veteran.
Conveyed through the experiences of five classmates deployed to fight on the German front lines, the play explores how the comrades’ initial innocent excitement is juxtaposed tragically with growing fear and numbness, depicted perceptively by the cast.
As they face life in the brutal trenches, where basic supplies are scarce and the constant threat of bombardment is ever-present, they encounter insufferable people like Corporal Himmelstoss (portrayed with domineering effect by Daniel Whitlam), who grips onto the little authority he possesses. Bleak isolation and loneliness are illustrated with sensitivity, particularly in the final scenes, where Paul Bäumer (Charlie MacVicar) deals with the trauma of accidentally killing an enemy combatant. Fighting for a cause many of their superiors were comfortably away from, the poorly trained young new recruits suffer from acute nervous dispositions, displayed on the actors’ faces. PTSD after fighting is delicately depicted; when Bäumer returns to his quaint German home town, he sees that everything is relatively unchanged, and feels completely out of place.
Incognito’s mission is “to stage socially conscious work in a physical way” that makes it available to everyone, and they have succeeded in doing so with this moving adaptation. Roberta Zuric’s direction sees the ensemble on top form, manoeuvring expertly around one another while vocalising the sounds and action that are found on the battleground. The sparse set-up involves only wooden crates, working in the company’s favour, making scenes clear and distinct.
Not a lot has changed throughout the decades of battles fought after the First World War – a conflict that was naively dubbed “the war to end all wars,” which is far from the case, as we know all too well.
Photo: Marco Marsenic
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.