The Unknown Soldier – Grist to the Mill
4th-29th August (not the 22nd), 13:45
Assembly Hall, Mound Place
The centennial of the First World War has led to a lot of new writing on this topic. This is yet another play about the war which draws attention to the memorial of the Unknown Soldier. Emotional but witty, The Unknown Soldier has everything you want in a play about the war.
Written and performed by Ross Ericson, The Unknown Soldier is a one-man show about Jack Vaughan, a soldier who, against all odds, has survived the war. Although set in what appears to be a trench, we find out that the war is over but Vaughan has stayed on after the armistice to help look for remaining bodies on the battlefields. Vaughan tells of severed limbs, the horrors of war and tragedies at home in such a personal way that the audience never doubted that Ericson was a soldier.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a memorial that everyone should be aware of as a tribute to those soldiers that remained missing or unidentified. The body for the tomb has only just been selected before Vaughan’s account. It soon becomes clear that Vaughan used this opportunity to keep a promise to his lost friend to bring his body home.
Although throughout most of the performance Vaughan is addressing his lost friend, Tom, there is one scene in which Vaughan recounts a particular battle. This section is a first person narrative of the battle which was delivered with such emotion and truth by Ericson that the audience was attentively hanging on his every word. However, one problem with this scene was the volume. Whilst the sounds of the battle playing over the speaker were intense and accurate, they were either too loud or Ericson wasn’t loud enough because it was slightly hard to hear what he was saying all the time.
The Unknown Soldier was performed with such raw emotion and sensitivity that I was holding back tears throughout the performance. The tense recounting of the battle, combined with harrowing memories of wounded soldiers crying out for their mothers made the moments of humour feel slightly inappropriate. Yet the audience could not help but chuckle throughout, this was the perfect touch to an otherwise grim and harrowing piece.
This is a brilliant play about friendship and touches on the delicate topic of the simple wish of many dead soldiers to return home. I would strongly recommend this play to everyone at the fringe, it is guaranteed to make you laugh but will also bring a tear to your eye – a great tribute to the unknown soldiers.