Unhinged psychopathy often comes accompanied with a touch of depth and frailty on the stage, but it’s rare for the nuances between rage and misery to be both as tightly written and performed as they are in this, a frankly devastating account of a soldier returned from the brutality of war in Afghanistan to the humdrum normality of life in Doncaster.
Samuel Edward-Cook is Ray, a former squaddie trying to win back his ex-wife Carla (Chloe Massey) after trapping her in his best mate Simon’s grotty pub in the small hours. He is a revelation: his sweaty menace could easily have translated to a lunk-headed, violent caricature but Edward-Cook charms us, terrifies, provokes loathing and sympathy. Often, quite brilliantly, within a single minute.
Cat Jones’s play was written in response to the effects of military life, the inadequate care for ex-servicemen and women who return from war and end up in prison. Her premise is simple: Ray has Carla, dopey barmaid Leanne (Kristin Atherton) and weedy landlord Simon (Adam Foster) stuck in an unasked for lock-in. He wants – needs – Carla to pack up with their kids and escape with him. She wants no part of it.
‘I’d be better off if you had got your legs blown off in Afghanistan… People would get that. They’d say: “Look at that poor cow pulling him in and out of his wheelchair. She’s a fucking saint.” You don’t get any brownie points for babysitting a fucking psycho.’
Ray’s world is already blown to bits. Like a pinball bouncing against the machine, he knows there’s no respite from the inevitably drunk thuggery and tragedy. It’s a deeply intense hour: written, performed and paced to leave audiences feeling pummelled. It makes a damn good job of it. Nosheen Iqbal