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Casualties, Park Theatre

Written by Ross Ericson
Directed by Harry Burton

Pros: Excellent direction of a world premier with an outstanding central performance and realistic dialogue.

Cons: Somehow the tension just seemed to be lacking at key moments and I never really felt like I cared what happened to these characters.

Our verdict: A good show with nice staging and some realistic and funny dialogue.

I’ll take a small fringe or community theatre with a pleasant front of house team over the glam and slick of impersonal West End theatre any day. Park Theatre, aiming to provide theatre for both the local

Courtesy of Park Theatre

community and a wider London audience, manages just that. But even beyond that, it is shaping up to be one of those must-attend theatres in London, putting on shows that audiences will happily travel just that little bit further to see. Couple this with a very nice bar and two sparkly new theatre spaces – what more could you want in an evening?

This new play by Ross Ericson has huge potential. It revolves around Staff Sergeant Gary Maddocks (Alex Ferns), who is deployed to Afghanistan to deal with IEDs, and Sergeant Mike Evans (Finlay Robertson) who must provide him with the technical support needed to do that safely, despite having recently seen one colleague killed and another seriously injured. The story unfolds with Gary and Mike in Afghanistan and Gary’s wife Emma (Emma Stansfield) and Peter (Patrick Toomey), a captain in the Military Police, who is investigating Gary’s recent injuries. What really stands out is the dialogue between Gary and Mike. Their quick witted, funny and at times bitter exchanges seem true to real life – these are the words of men who must live and die alongside each other, but will find plenty of time to joke around in the meantime.

All four actors are great, but Finlay Robertson, as a man with a faltering grip on reality who is tormented by past and present actions, provides the stand out performance of the night. The propensity of both Mike and Gary to switch between humour and anger is terrifying to watch, hammering home the bleakness of such dangerous work, and the way humans will always revert to comedy as an attempt to cope.

Watching Patrick Toomey question Emma was unpleasant to watch and it was clear his character was dealing with his own issues as much as he was trying to find out what had happened. The inherent sexism in his statements, the suggestion that the events were all the fault of a woman who wasn’t even there. While unpleasant, this seemed to reflect the reality that we often seek to find reasons for unpleasant events when the real reason isn’t one we wish to face.

The small 90-seat theatre is set up in traverse and Katherine Heath’s beautiful set, with one end the kitchen of Gary and Emma’s home and the other a sandy suggestion of the Afghani desert works perfectly. The sound design is great, adding depth to the show, and another cameo by the music of Elvis Costello brought a smile to my face.

This is a good play, and I think Ericson has a lot of promise, but it just never reaches the necessary tension to make it excellent – I never quite cared enough about any of the characters to find myself totally gripped. But I’m looking forward to seeing what he produces in the future.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Casualties runs at Park Theatre until 14th July.
Box office: 020 7870 6876 or book online at: https://secure.parktheatre.co.uk/programme/11809

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