Sophie Lipton reviews the new play at The Contact Theatre, Fields of Grey.
Three Stars out of Five Stars
Fields of Grey, directed by Contact’s Artistic Director Baba Israel, gives an insight into the Afghan American war. It is about an American soldier, and a British Muslim Mujahid who shot each other at battle. They are transported into a locked room where there is a heavy feeling of distrust, dislike and differences. However, it slowly becomes obvious that their dilemmas and difficulties are not actually fields apart.
In this two man play, the actors seem to really interact with the audience from the beginning. Unknowingly stuck in what seems like a state of limbo, the actors only have the audience to question their confusion. This mixed with with Mtume Gant’s and Avaes Mohammad’s strong acting, injected emotions into the audience, making us feel part of the performance. However, Gant’s rendition really does deserve a mention as his diverse range of emotions were hard hitting and convincing, showing off his flexibility as an actor.
I may have not had the unique experience of walking into a space ship, but the way I was escorted into the theatre was unconventional, and I felt as if I was walking into another planet. Unlike any piece of theatre I had seen before, the doors were only open to a select number of the audience at a time while we taken on a journey. From meditation to washing our hands, an eerie yet thrilling atmosphere has been successfully created. The stage was minimal, yet impressive as it was literally a cube layered with sand placed in the centre of the room. Before the play started, news clips encompassing the US Afghanistan war were beamed onto the translucent walls of the cube, filling the first of many awkward pauses the show had in store.
I found there were too many silences within the play which decreased a needed sense of urgency. This caused my interest to dwindle at some points during the performance. However, the use of technology and visual affects beamed onto the stage certainly tried to grab my attention. At first I felt this was a great technique utilised, but it became overused, fragmenting the plot of the play. Ultimately the effects triumphed over the acting and I found myself thinking ‘was that really necessary?’.
I found both characters were quite balanced in their political views at the start of the play. Unfortunately the mutual stance was discontinued when the performance ended at an abrupt halt only depicting the American soldier in a negative light. It was almost as if the ending had been cut short, time taken up by fancy videos and effects. This ambiguous and quite biased ending made the show appear ironically quite grey and confusing, leaving me questioning why only the American solider had come to terms with his guilt.
Overall, no key knowledge of the US-Afghanistan war was needed, which makes it a watch for all keen theatre goers, especially for those who like to ponder on controversial endings. Evidently Fields of Grey had potential for a black and white hard hitting political fresh theatrical performance, but the use too many different techniques created a sense of grey ambiguity.
Fields of Grey runs at The Contact Theatre until October 13th.