REWORKING AN ENDING: THERE IS A WAR
Direct-H's THERE IS A WAR by Tom Basden
played at The Corpus Playroom, Cambridge from the 22nd-27th of January 2018.
"Olivia Gillman and her creative team make a playground war which is so silly that the occasional reference to a brutal truth or incident of violence are deeply unsettling."- TCS
Review here: https://www.tcs.cam.ac.uk/theatre/0038218-review-there-is-a-war.html
Our production of There Is A War combined a Wes Anderson-inspired choreography and aesthetic with a script from one of Britain's leading sketch and sitcom writers: Tom Basden. Scout uniforms were mail ordered from Poland. Cast members marched through scene transitions to a track of percussive music made by actors playing bongos, triangles and sauce pans from the stage's peripheries.
Tom wanted us to try a different ending to There Is A War to that used at The National in 2011 when this play first went up at The Paintframe. This was to draw out- particularly- the tragi-comic , as opposed to comic, effects , of one of the most dark works he has published to date . A close contender for the accolade is his Joseph K, a comedy based on Kafka's Metamorphosis. In There Is A War a musician, here to entertain the troops, might be humourously arrogant: and immersed in a slapstick impression. Yet this will be punctuated by an aside referencing brutal violence such as murder or rape. The effect is to make the audience unsure whether they should laugh or cry.
Tom had originally been asked by The National to keep his protagonist alive at the play's close. However, with differing commercial concerns, we felt this conclusion to the play could be developed in a new direction. So, instead, - under his suggestion, we trialed a more tragic conclusion : where the survival of Anne is far more ambiguous. Where the original production kept Anne alive after the play's hospital shoot-out finale, our production closed with her having received a bullet wound to the stomach. In this version, the audience do not know whether she will die or not. As panic sets in on her face, we then tuned into The Rolling Stones' 'Paint It Black': morbid for a moment before providing an electric dance space for our cast to take their bows. Once we got the beats and rhythms of its choreography right, this new ending seemed to be impactful with audiences and feedback was emphatically positive. Anne's fight for life appeared to appropriately capture the energy of an internal tussle that persists in her dialogue throughout the play: who and what is she fighting for? Her experience offers a depiction of a universal set of struggles humans face in any form of battle: and the finale we developed with Tom now underlined, rather than contradicted, this.
Tom Basden’s There is a War is a bleakly comic play about the absurdity of war.
As soldiers, priests and scavengers roam a battle-scorched landscape, young medical officer Anne, desperately trying to reach a front-line hospital, finds herself abandoned and useless. The war is raging between the almost indistinguishable Blues and Grays, with no end in sight. On her journey Anne encounters, amongst others, an angry priest, some blasé gravediggers, a clown, a group of campaigners and a recently promoted General. But no one seems to know what exactly it is they’re mean to be fighting for.
Cast and Creative list here: https://www.camdram.net/shows/2018-there-is-a-war