For most people wars are confined to history books or the big screen; stirring tales of past glories and sacrifices made by our forefathers. But war is very real for those who witness armed combat in an age of instant newsfeeds where nothing goes unseen. Warheads is a shocking indictment of soldiers reduced to shells; still fighting the enemy in their minds.
Miles (Taz Skylar) is an ordinary kid from North London, looking for a direction in life. His best mate Mory (Hassan Najib) introduces him to Tena (Klariza Clayton); the love of his life. They later share a chaotic flat with the camp but lovable Tembe (Joseph Connolly). But Miles is a restless spirit; no education or money in his family leaves him with two options; work in the local pizza parlour or join the army. Being a soldier will turn him into a man and win the respect of Tena, or so he thinks. Mory goes with Miles on a tour of duty to Afghanistan. They return battle scarred but physically in one piece. Miles has the classic hallmarks of PTSD and seeks therapy from counsellor Phillippa Keys (Sophie Couch). The spectre of his commanding officer Captain Deex (Craig Fairbrass) stalks him, a man he follows without question. Miles contemplates another tour of Afghanistan but can he cope with the strain?
The play treads familiar territory, but simple visual techniques raise the story to a much higher level. A smart sound and lighting system utilises the performance area to great effect. Posters of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and ‘Tour of Duty’ show how seductive imagery portrays war in the media. Crates are rapidly shifted around the set as the story flashes back and forward. However, scene transitions are never confused; as director Toby Clarke shows a great eye for plot positioning. Before and after sequences give the characters much needed depth as their back story becomes clearer. The cast are excellent, delivering natural and affecting performances. Craig Fairbrass, a film and TV regular, gives the production a vital boost as a genuine name and face.
Warheads shows simply and clearly the unbearable toll that combat takes on a human being. Wounds that cannot be seen take the longest to heal, if they ever do at all. It’s a stark reminder that we don’t send machines into battle. Taz Skylar is a significant talent both as a writer and performer, and we should all watch with interest.
Writers: Taz Skylar and Ross Berkeley Simpson
Director: Toby Clarke
Producers: True Maverick Media and Park Theatre
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking Link: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/warheads
Booking Until: 7 September 2019