Guest reviewer: Megan Hyland
In 1982, six war veterans fought on separate sides of the Falklands/Malvinas war. Now, in Minefield, they stand together on stage to tell their stories. In an honest and emotional piece that takes no sides and holds no judgement, these men explore what it means to be a veteran and the burdens that they carry.
Each of the men enters the performance with remarkable honesty. Lou Armour and Marcelo Vallejo stand out for the ways in which they bare their emotions and talk of their struggles after the war. Armour tells of how, for many years, he was haunted by the memory of an Argentine soldier that he killed. He speaks of how he could not forget holding the man in his arms, and the guilt that he felt for mourning the enemy.
Vallejo tells of his struggles with addiction and hatred of anything English. He speaks very candidly of how he could not abide to hear the language spoken or even watch English television shows. They all speak with such refreshing vulnerability that it is difficult not to be moved by their stories.
One aspect that adds to the honesty of this piece is that none of the men try to hide their resentment, or pretend to look upon the war with fondness. Minefield takes no moral high-ground and holds no biases, instead presenting six men who have had a terrible, but shared experience. Because despite clinging to their principles and not having a shared language among them, there is a mutual understanding between these men that transcends all barriers.
That is not to say, however, that the performance is all hard-going. In fact, each of the men brings their own individual humour and talent to the performance. David Jackson has the audience laughing with his sharp wit and satirical performance as Margaret Thatcher, while Sukrim Rai performs a beautiful rendition of a Nepalese song. Though it has to be said that Ruben Otero’s drumming brings a new energy to the performance, as he, Gabriel Sagastume and Vallejo perform some Beatles classics in imitation of Otero’s tribute band, the Get Back Trio.
Stylistically, the performance is quite individual but beautifully put together. The men create their own sound effects to imitate the stomping of boots on gravel and explosions, invite us to leaf through Argentinian war magazines, and even project pictures of themselves from the war. It is a deeply personal portrayal of their stories but makes the performance more intimate and raw. Unfortunately, the piece came to rather an abrupt end, but this can be easily forgiven for it followed a particularly poignant musical monologue from Armour.
Minefield is a testament to the strength of these men and the breaking of the stigma that surrounds war veterans. It is refreshing to see such men talk with so much openness about the emotional consequences that they have suffered and to break down the romanticism of war that is still depicted today. This piece takes no sides, and in doing so it presents these men onstage not as opponents, but as equals. For although they were as rivals thirty-six years ago, their lives are forever intertwined, creating a comradery between them that is undeniable.