Papa Hou Theatre at the YMCA, 12 Hereford Street, Christchurch
21/09/2017 - 24/09/2017
Aleppo is an original play written by up-and-coming, Cantabrian creative Wade Beaven. This unique show is a real-time look at 3 soldiers waiting for a pickup in the middle of a forest. With war raging in the background Arthur, Thomas and Phillip discover what they are fighting for, what they have to live for and a comradeship worth dying for.
Aleppo is on at the Brand New Papa Hou (Treasure Box) Theatre, 12 Hereford Street, YMCA, Christchurch
21st – 24th September 2017.
Thursday 21* – Saturday 23 Septpember – 7:30pm
Sunday 24 September – 3:30pm (matinee/finale show)
*Thurs 21 Sept show followed by Q+A with cast and Crew.
TICKETS: Children (13-15) – $15
Concession (students/seniors) – $17
Tickets can be purchased HERE
THOMAS – James Sexton
ARTHUR – Ryan Fairbrother
PHILLIP – Rob Harrison
UNNAMED SOLDIER – Joelle Baclig
TECHINICAL DEISGN/OPERATOR – Josh Bagnall
Grab bag of American war movie clichés recycled uncritically
Review by Erin Harrington 22nd Sep 2017
The hour-long one act play Aleppo, written and directed by Wade Beaven, offers us a tried and true wartime narrative. Three soldiers find themselves in a clearing in a forest, where they have to ‘hurry up and wait’ in the desperate hope that someone comes to pick them up before they are caught, or before their rations run out. The hour is passed with scratchy, bored banter, increasingly fraught arguments, and some moments of tragedy that highlight their precarious situation.
The actors put their weight behind their characters and perform with conviction, although there are a few issues with audibility, especially when they are competing with the loud rain on the theatre’s roof. The three soldiers – James Sexton and Ryan Fairbrother as young grunts, and Rob Harrison as an older lieutenant – work hard to find ways to balance boredom, desperation and fear. I am impressed with how Joelle Baclig, who plays an unnamed child soldier who disrupts the camp, brings some shape and watchful gravitas to a role that is pretty wafer thin and relies on some unfortunate stereotyping.
The play is set in a forest clearing and the (uncredited) production design works to create a tactile sense of place. The military costumes and properties are all well-considered, and I appreciate the way the thick dirt on the floor and the foliage around the playing space fills the theatre with a rich, musty scent. There is some interesting work with light, which offers the suggestion of the conflict that is continuing around the soldiers, but some of the sound cues, especially those involving guns and movement, don’t have the sense of reality and gravitas that I think is intended.
Although the title of the play seems to situate us within the current conflicts in Syria, there is a sense of slippage in terms of time, place and relationship. It’s uncertain what war is ranging, or why the soldiers are there. The three have been fighting together but don’t really know anything about one another. Our actors speak in modern day NZ vernacular but pass the time by singing the American jingles that were contemporary during the Vietnam War. They have broad brush hopes and dreams (to get back to one’s sweetheart, to build a farm with one’s own hands) that come straight from the Platoon playbook. I am not sure if this is all by accident or by design, although until the play’s resolution I am certainly interested in the possibility that we are in a sort of weird, metaphysical Waiting for Godot situation.
This production has a lot of promise, and it is always heartening to see the work of emerging companies. It is a pity this show comes to rely heavily on a grab bag of American war movie clichés that are recycled uncritically, and it mistakes angsty, tragic backstory and noisy, heated arguments for genuine character development. The outcome is that, despite the opportunities of the set up, it never really tells its own story or finds its own voice.
It is obvious, though, that the young team behind Aleppo have ambition, vision and talent, and they should be applauded for the intent of their efforts. I am very interested to see what they do next.
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