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For most of us Afghanistan feels very far away, and the realities of war remote. Ross Ericson’s new play, ‘Casualties’, drags us right into the battlefield. Sat huddled in the Park 90 studio space, we’re so close to the action we can practically dip our toes in the desert.
It feels infinitely more intense than anything I’ve seen on film – even Kathryn Bigelow’s gut-punchingly painful ‘Hurt Locker’. As Gary (Alex Ferns) and Mike (Finlay Robertson) attempt to disable a number of IEDs, one flinches in fear. Director Harry Burton keeps things taut but low key. The line between actor and audience is blurred and for one incredible second we fear for our own safety.
These scenes ring true because they are close and because they are funny. Alex Ferns’s Gary – brave but also a bit of a bastard – jokes even in the midst of gunfire. Bitching about some rookie soldiers, Gary quips: ‘If it blows part of his cock off, he won’t be a complete prick anymore.’
The scenes back home, between an unbelievably posh investigating officer and Gary’s angry wife, are much less convincing. The dialogue drops in quality and the emotional intensity soars. It feels like watching the final scene in a soap opera on repeat. Each false note takes us further way from the believable blasts of the battlefield.
By Miriam Gillinson