Theatre review – Minefield

Walking into HOME theatre on Thursday night, my plus 1 and I discussed the subject matter of the production we were about to see; that of the Falklands War.

Both of a similar age (he 15 months older – devil is in the detail), we both agreed that the Falklands was one of the first significant ‘news’ events we were aware of at infant age. The second was the Miners’ Strike, some time later. The latter, mainly because I was scared of Arthur Scargill – the man who…

shouted on the television.

I am not pitting (sorry, that was truly not intentional) any one side against the other by having that particular fear. In fact, everyone from that era seemed to be ‘shouting on the television’ at one time  or another. It was very much the intonation du jour.

And so whilst the Falklands War was one of my earliest memories, it is admittedly a conflict that I know less of than the World Wars of earlier decades. Phrases such as ‘the sinking of the Belgrano’ and ‘Goose Green’ are familiar to me, but the details less so. In fact it is indeed pointed out on stage that it is not a conflict that is taught in schools.

And it should be.

And I now know a lot more.

And it is thanks to the incredible company who, as part of the Viva! Festival at HOME, brings those two months vividly to life in Lola Arias’ Minefield.

I need to be careful not to fall into a trap of looking like I’m (arrogantly) reviewing six men’s experiences of war, rather than a play. But here lies the fascination, if you like, because the six men who stood before us on stage last night are not only acting out and, yes, entertaining us with an account of the Falklands. It is their account. And their memories. And their lives which are being laid bare before audiences.

At this point, I should also strive to call the Falklands, the Malvinas too. Or at least reference this name as the six veterans were from both sides of the conflict:

Gabriel Sagastume – a soldier who never wanted to shoot a gun and who is now a criminal lawyer;

Marcelo Vallejo – a mortar direction controller who today is a triathlon champion;

Ruben Otero – who survived the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano, and who now plays in a Beatles tribute band;

David Jackson – who spent the war listening and transcribing radio codes and who now listens to other veterans in his role as a counsellor;

Sukrim Rai – a Gurkha and knife-expert who now works as a security guard; and

Lou Armour – who was on the front page of every UK newspaper when the Argentinians took him prisoner on 2 April 1982. Today he is a teacher for children with learning difficulties.

To give you a sense of the purpose of the production, Argentinian Director, Lola Arias, says

War isn’t what interests me, it’s what comes after that interests me. What matters to me is what happens to a person who went through that experience. What matters to me is what memory has done, what it has erased, what it has transformed.

Never has a vision been so realised than in Minefield. Not only in the accounts that as an audience member, you feel moved and privileged to be privy to, but in the imaginative, clever, informative and humorous ways in which the play does so.

I want everyone I’ve ever met to go and see this production (no mean feat, given that it’s only on for two more nights; 13 and 14 April 2018, and hence my review being a little shorter than I might like, given my desperation to get it out asap on my lunch hour), and so I won’t commit to any spoilers because I have true faith in all of you going straight online to book your tickets (see details at the end of this post).

However, I will throw in some phrases to give you something of what the production brings to the table in just one hour and 40 minutes of live theatre of which I have never experienced before and will stay with me for some time:

  • An account of a veteran who transported body parts in what was his own blanket (and remained so, sleeping under it for the duration of the conflict
  • Maggie Thatcher as you’ve never seen her before (nice legs David Jackson)
  • Diaries, letters, blankets, and stark, stark memories of a period shared with a captivated audience
  • A striptease
  • On stage therapy as one veteran shares his searingly honest and painful memories of the war to another, now trained as a Psychologist;
  • An Argentinian Beatles tribute band; and
  • so much, much more.

As my plus 1 and I left the theatre, largely in silence (we hadn’t had a spat), we broke that silence to marvel at what we’d just seen and how we’d describe it to someone who hadn’t seen it.

A better writer than me may come up with a strong tagline but all I can say is, if you can see it, please do. And if you can’t, read about these men, and all those who are not with us to share their own personal tales. Be it on a drum kit or in drag.

Picture credits: Tristam Kenton

To book your tickets (do it), please do so here.

For more information on the Viva! Festival and the full programme of events, please click here.

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