By Isabella Fraser
An examination of the lives of several different soldiers and their families, writer and actor Douglas Taurel, together with direction from Padraic Lillis, has created a sensitive and moving portrayal of the way war affects soldiers. The monologues look at the different wars Americans have fought in and the varying ways in which a soldier is changed by war.
Taurel has spent several years researching this show, looking at genuine letters from contrasting eras, to examine the psychological and physical changes that soldiers go through. Some of the influences developed and used in the play came from family members; others from the actual soldiers themselves. This reflects in the text – it comes across as genuine and honest, that particular type of honest that is expressed when you think no-one is reading what is written. These sections are also relatively short. What would be great to see would be longer monologues in order to allow the audience to gain a deeper understanding, not only of the circumstances of the soldier, but also that soldier himself. With that greater awareness, the poignancy can deepen as there is a limit to how invested you can become in a couple of minutes.
As every individual character requires a slight change in costume and placement, these can seem excessive due to the number of monologues and characters, but also a little too long and unnecessary. Taurel uses a variation in body language, accent and timbre, so more compact direction, reducing changes to costume could be made simpler and therefore slicker. Music is already an indicator of the variation in period and new soldier’s story to be portrayed, so less is required.
Nonetheless, these are small quibbles and the overall effect is that of a sincere tribute with an awareness of the impact and sacrifice that is made by soldiers and by their families. The time period or the war do not matter – the impact is the same.
On exit, Taurel greets theatregoers and it is clear how much his work is appreciated by the way in which audience members interact with him.
The American Soldier runs until 22 August at Zoo Southside @ 19:00. Running time is 50 mins.