Finborough Theatre, London – until 24 January 2017
Veterans Day is appropriately timed revival that shows not much has changed when dealing with members of the armed services post-conflict.
About a decade after everyone else, I started playing Rockstar Games’ LA Noire (if you ever wondered what a theatre critic does when she isn’t criticising), which is set in Post WWII LA. Much of the story focuses on ex-servicemen; promises they were made such as housing but also their treatment of others. The message throughout the game is that they couldn’t ever adjust to civilian life, a reasoning blamed for many of the murders of women and abuse of wives throughout the game.
First produced in 1989 Donald Freed’s Veterans Day looks at the same issues through three men; Private Leslie Holloway (Roger Braban), a WWI Veteran, Sergeant John MacCormick Butts (Craig Pinder), a WWII Veteran and Colonel Walter Kercelik (Charlie De Bromhead), a veteran of the Vietnam War. The saddest thing about this revival is the number of wars since and the extra characters that could be added.
All have their own internal demons and each man has his own way of coping. This play is more a thriller as one decides to take matters into his own hands at their Remembrance Ceremony where they are to be all honoured for their achievements.
The play feels more like a movie thriller, there is tension, there are twists but ultimately there are some great performances from Charlie De Bromhead as the poster boy for the armed forces who has almost ice cold robotic manner and Pinder (who resembles Eisenhower) as Butts, the seemingly outgoing businessman with a dark secret. I was strangely drawn to Matt Downing’s Sound design, which convinced me there was a parade going on behind the door but I felt Braban was underused as the shellshocked Holloway and whilst his presence helped the play I did wonder if they could have done it without him as it seems a waste of an experienced actor.
The use of war songs such as ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary‘ set the mood but I questioned the choice to make this two act play interval-less. I felt some of the tension was lost by ploughing through, there was very little directional boldness too from director Hannah Boland Moore and I think the interval should have been left as written. This is dated much better than its rep partner The Trackers of Oxyrynchus but after a very tense build up I was left a bit deflated and disappointed by the conclusion
It is a play with a strong message but it fails to keep the energy and tension promised mid- way through.