The Silver Tassie. Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre, London. May 2014.
After having a disappointing time at The View From the Bridge which had rave reviews I was very nervous about this play as it has had a very lukewarm reception.
Perhaps going in with lower expectations was the right thing to do as I found this play a real curiosity. The subject matter meant that it could never be classed as enjoyable but it was challenging and thought provoking in just the right way.
It is a play in four acts, three are set in a very traditional manner and depict life in Ireland during and after World War One and the second act is set in the trenches and is as different to anything I've ever seen on stage as is imaginable.
In a nutshell Harry is our main character and in act one he is the town's sporting hero, in act two we see him at the front and then after the interval he is back in Dublin but this time in a wheelchair after being paralysed from the waist down.
The war scenes are incredible, the pyrotechnic team have a field day and actually blow up the set! The madness of the war is portrayed using song and movement as well as through the way the superior officers act. The interval is heralded by a howitzer gun turning to face the audience and firing. I've never wanted to grab the person sitting next to me in fear so much before.
The second half of the play almost depicts the horror of war better as it is all about the maimed survivors. No one wanted the lads to die but no one wants to actually deal with those who survived but were disabled.
This play is a very early anti-war play, written decades before Oh! What a Lovely War and for those who say that the idea of 'lions being led by donkeys' is a new and revisionist idea should look back at this play and the date it was written.
This is certainly a play that will stay with me for a long time and makes a great foil to both War Horse and Journey's End.