Thursday, 19 March 2009

Nothing Like the Wooden Horse - The Customs House, South Shields

Nothing Like the Wooden Horse by Tom Kelly
Director: Jac
kie Fielding
Reviewer: Ian Cain

The eve of Wayne’s return to Iraq for another tour of duty brings the usual ritual of banter and a few drinks with Tommy, his granddad, before he leaves. But something is not quite the same this evening.

Tommy and Wayne have both survived their contrasting experiences of the army and as they recount their tales, tonight is the night for a few secrets to be revealed.

Nothing Like The Wooden Horse is a compelling two-hander, beautifully written by Tom Kelly, that captures the impact of war on both men whose experiences appear all too similar but also quite different.

Donald McBride, as Tommy, and Michael Imerson, as Wayne, deliver consummate performances that are honest and poignant throughout, while Kelly’s writing has a warmth and humility that is punctuated by moments of pathos and hilarity in equal measure.

The business of staging two-handed plays is a risky one - it requires two extremely talented performers, a stunning script and a director with an attention for detail that borders on the obsessive – and it can very easily go awry. Nothing Like The Wooden Horse triumphantly suc
ceeds on all levels.

Tom Kelly drew upon the life of his father, who was a German Prisoner Of War in World War Two, when writing the play and, it seems, that this has provided an additional emotional layer to the piece.

Although much of the action takes place in the neat living room of Tommy’s council bungalow, flashbacks are effectively used to visualise pivotal moments in the experiences of both men. The moment when HMS Birmingham is bombed with Tommy onboard is brought vividly back to life, as is the explosion in Iraq that maimed Wayne’s best friend, Dave.

Nothing Like The Wooden Horse is an outstanding play that examines the effects of war on two ordinary, working class men and demonstrates that, although one side may claim victory over another, there are never any real winners in warfare.

Nothing Like The Wooden Horse runs at The Customs House, until Saturday 21st March 2009.
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