Jess Johnstone reviews Action Man, the final play in the Drama Society’s Autumn Season 2017
Action Man, the final play in the Drama Society’s Autumn Season 2017 was an emotional whirlwind, leaving the audience unsure whether they should laugh or cry. It was performed by a stellar cast at The International Anthony Burgess Foundation. The original script by Lizzie Morris felt reminiscent of Bristol Old Vic’s Pink Mist, a feat which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The action follows Corporal Liam Drury (Mike Moulton) as he struggles to deal with PTSD after retiring from an eight year career in the British Army. We were invited into Drury’s memories, both good and bad, by the charismatic Moulton who engages the audience from start to finish. He has us giggling at the antics taking place in the army barracks, full of eager young men just beginning their careers, then moves us right through to the emotional turmoil of losing members of his squadron. Moulton handles the complex character with ease, shifting seamlessly from joking with the audience into the dark descents of trauma.
A standout scene for me was one in which Drury has a meeting with a benefits officer (Alana Cook). The tension orse dramatically throughout the scene as Drury was told hat he is ineligible for benefits. It was created wonderfully by both Cook and Moulton who play off each other spectacularly. The seamless transition from Drury’s anger into his PTSD induced flashback was handled carefully by Moulton, Cook and the entire ensemble.
Particular praise has to be given to directors Lizzie Morris and Grace Johnstone for the way in which they handled a piece with such intense themes. They successfully maintained a balance between comedy and drama which allowed the audience moments to breathe after such high impact scenes. The stage design, especially the use of shadow to illustrate exactly what Drury was remembering, was brilliant and an unexpected twist. The writing itself absolutely blew me away; the bold choice to tackle such themes with complete sensitivity while still highlighting the issues, paid off completely. The sound design, for me, was a definite highlight. It only served to aid the intensity of Moulton’s portrayal of Drury during his flashbacks.
As an ensemble the entire cast were impeccable; every aspect of physical theatre was meticulously choreographed and they all bounced off each other giving the piece a real energy. Lolly Isaccs was also a standout as Drury’s wife Mandy, her raw emotion was hard hitting and she played off Moulton incredibly well.
The entire piece was virtually faultless; and if I could see it again, I without a doubt would.
I look forward to seeing more writing from Lizzie Morris in the future.