PINK MIST/ TRAVERSE THEATRE/ FRIDAY 24TH FEBRUARY 2017 TWO STARS: **
As an avid theatre-lover, it is a very rare occasion when I leave an auditorium thankful that a play has ended, but unfortunately Pink Mist certainly lived up to its reputation of being different. The piece examines the personal aftermath of three soldiers after their service in Afghanistan, and the private turmoil of their loved ones. Performed through (at times stunning) physical ensemble work and isolated sections of text, the piece did have some success in its depiction, but failed to convince on any greater or consistent level.
The first thing from the offset that struck me was the fact that, for some ‘creative’ reason lost on me, the piece was performed purely through the medium of (poorly attempted) Somerset farmers’ accents. I couldn’t help but feel a growing sense of frustration as such powerful words were undermined by something so cheap and unnecessary. I tried to justify it for my own sanity; saying that the accent was in connection with the play’s heritage of Bristol – but the simplistic and explicitly non-geographic set said otherwise.
Additionally, I felt that the piece was so wrapped up in the idea of being a constant flow of dynamism and drive that it repeatedly missed the raw emotion crucial for dealing with the play’s themes. Throughout the vast majority of the performance the energy level was over-powering and monotonous – it is surprising just how soporific constant shouting in your face can be: I wanted to stress to them that the best way to induce a sense of stress is not to screech until the point of exhaustion. I must, however, give credit where due: to the script. Owen Sheer’s poetic and potent verses seemed to ring all too true – managing to create a sense of trepidation amongst a cosmopolitan audience with no first-hand experience of the Afghanistan War amongst them.
In the post-show discussion Sheers said that the work stemmed from interviews with thirty servicemen, validating the emotion laced vividly between the lines as truthful. He also stated that the piece was originally intended for radio and so the words themselves held a greater importance during the writing process – perhaps this was the reason why the script lent itself so successfully to such a physical and abstract representation. It would also be dishonest to deny that the play did have some extremely strong points, and on multiple occasions the imagery and physical presence of the movement on stage gave me goose bumps.
Furthermore, Rebecca Killick’s portrayal of Lisa came with a beautiful vulnerability, and it was as much haunting as refreshing to watch her wholly authentic and deeply moving performance. I think what aggravated me the most with this piece was that the basic principles of storytelling were simply lacking, and brought the performance down from what could’ve been an absolutely breath-taking ensemble piece. The play was either faultless or weak – with absolutely no middle ground, and it made the whole experience rather confusing. From reading the actors’ rich history of work it is evident that they can’t have progressed so far into the industry without mastering the bases of projection and conveying projection, and so I ask myself whether this was the part of the directors George Mann and John Retallack. Quite what justified this remains a mystery, however, and as a result I regret to say that I will not be rushing to watch it again