Home » Reviews » Off West End » Our Friends, The Enemy, New Wimbledon Studio

Our Friends, The Enemy, New Wimbledon Studio

Alex Gwyther
Directed by Tom O’Brien

★★★

Pros: Fantastic design coupled with a bright and enthusiastic performance based on a fascinating historical moment.

Cons: The plot didn’t have much of an arc and despite an engaging performance, the script might have been better suited as a short story or full-cast production rather than a solo piece.

Our Verdict: There were many great elements at play here but ultimately the dramatic presentation lacks effectiveness.

Courtesy of New Wimbledon Theatre

Alex Gwyther is the writer and performer in this hour-long solo piece which tells a patchwork of stories during the events of the Christmas Truce of World War I. There are plenty of good things to say about this one-man show, which was originally devised for Remembrance Services during the Mayor of London’s Week of Peace. Gwyther deserves praise for exploring an historical occasion which is both unrepresented in art and glossed over in textbooks. It’s always exciting and interesting to be able to learn something new through a play and Gwyther honours this historic moment with enthusiasm and beautiful language.

From the opening moments I could sense Gwyther’s talent as well as his passion for the material. The language, composed and performed by him, is lyrical and engaging and he possesses a great stage presence. However, despite beautiful composition and an impassioned performance, there is something to be desired in the presentation. There is little in the structure of the play to anchor the audience. The story is constantly hopping between different regiments, locations, and soldiers, giving us very little time to attach ourselves to anything concrete. The rattling off of names and locations becomes disorienting. There is also very little action – the show is primarily a storytime scenario, in which events are recounted but rarely re-enacted. I wondered whether the show might be better off as a short story to be read rather than a play or perhaps written for a full cast so that we could better experience the events. Although Gwyther’s language was beautiful and his performance engaging, it’s difficult for one man to effectively portray the coming together of many men.

Despite the question of whether the chosen medium is quite the right one, the show still succeeds on many levels. In addition to Gwyther’s poetic script and lovely performance, the design is incredible. I’ve found many solo pieces to lack ingenuity and polished design, often because the resources are unavailable but in the case of this production, I was wowed by the lighting in particular. It truly enhanced the changing scenes and tone. Additionally the set and costume design were phenomenal – the action took place on a long bed of dirt and snow with Gwyther in a khaki military uniform.

There is so much potential in this piece and it’s certainly worth seeing should you get the chance. Personally, I would love to see Gwyther reimagine the show as a full cast production and I’d be really interested in seeing the interactions between characters that were unable to be fully explored using only one performer.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!

Our Friends, The Enemy runs at New Wimbledon Studio until 2 March 2013.
Box office 0844 871 7646 or book online at http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/our-friends-the-enemy/new-wimbledon-studio/

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