It’s been a good few months since I last seen an excellent production. The one you can’t stop thinking about; the one you can relate to so much, it hurts. On Friday I left East Riding Theatre so emotionally drained, that I was shaking. Even now, few days later, my mind is still recreating the scenes, that I felt I’d experienced, not just watched.
Jake Smith, after a success of Goodnight Mr. Tom, brought another great production to the cosy stage in Beverley. Glory Dazed, written by Cat Jones, is a provocative play discussing modern time problems of ex-soldiers dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and their struggle in reconnecting with ‘normality’. I am not surprised, it won many awards including: the BBC Alfred Bradley Award for Radio Drama (2011), the Holden Street Theatre Award and the Critics Choice Award in Adelaide (2013). This play is a dark comedy, for me a masterpiece of emotions, perfectly combining hilarious but very authentic dialogues you can hear down your street, with extremely serious topics. Glory Dazed has some hypnotising power that drags you into it. You feel either like a person sat in the corner or (unfortunately? for you) like one of the characters, depends on your experience. Jones vacillates with emotions, constantly keeping the audience on their toes.
The main character, Ray (Samuel Edward-Cook), used to serve in British Army during Afghanistan and Iraq wars; now returns to Doncaster to get his life back. Ray believes that only rebuilding a relationship with his ex-wife and an escape to Brighton, will allow him to turn back time, to wash away his sins and eliminate haunting nightmares of war.
The most depressing thing in life is that we can’t pause or rewind it. Ray doesn’t want to understand that nothing will ever be like before, that he can’t jump back in his old self and lead the life as it was before the army. His ex-wife, Carla (Annabel York), won’t ever feel his pain; she struggled as well during his absence and after his return, but for Ray problems of this world seem now rather pathetic. After traumatic experience, he just want to seize the day, gasp life, not to turn back.
Glory Dazed is a very complex play, exploring many different aspects of war. Most importantly, the play discuses the problem of lack or insufficient support awaiting returning home soldiers and their families. It questions openness of talking about men’s mental health; it challenges social stigma and pressure of being a ‘real’ man – tough, not crying or speaking about his ‘weaknesses’. There is also a political debate there, about the necessity of Afghanistan and Iraq wars; about morality of ‘peacekeeping’ British troops; conflicted views of British nation on both military conflicts; and finally about the meaning of heroism. Simon (Adam Foster), Ray’s ex-friend, who now dates Carla and looks after his two sons, questions his old pal about unethical, disgusting and shocking behaviour that is also a part of war. But who else could understand Ray, if not only a person who laid there with him covered with human flesh?
Finally, Glory Dazed present a story about a toxic, but still very passionate relationship of two people who down deep love each other but know staying together only causes pain to everyone around. Ray tried everything to get his family back – begging, shouting, threating, abusing… but Carla is already immune to that. Until that moment, I feared throughout the play – Ray started crying. The time slowed down, no one dared saying anything when both sat opposite each other in silence. With heart palpitations, I wanted to shout: Just don’t look in his eyes! But she did… For a minute Carla felt like Alice in Wonderland, falling again into the rabbit’s hole, she forgot about abuse, tears and sorrow. Although, she was ready to take him back, help him to become a dad and husband she always dreamed him to be, Ray allowed her to go; posted the keys through the letterbox and left… I am just not sure for how long.
East Riding Theatre started 2019 with a bang! Fantastic cast, excellent play and more importantly very important cause – support for Veterans and their families. Unfortunately, you cannot see it in Beverley no more, but keep your eyes open! It will hopefully return soon.