By Isabella Fraser
There are many WWI plays in the Fringe this year – and this is likely to continue for some time yet while we observe the anniversaries of the years of the war. What the anniversaries have done is prompt a consideration of the impact the war had on people who fought, who were left behind and what we have learned from this conflict.
In a thought-provoking move, this solo piece focuses on one of the soldiers who were left behind at the end of the war to search for the dead and the missing in the land where they fought and to provide them with burials. Ross Ericson’s soldier discusses his two years spent looking for remains, as well as the difficulties he experienced during the conflict. Beginning with a beautiful poem about silence, there is a poignancy, which reminds us what was lost during ‘the war to end all wars’.
Ericson’s soldier is a friendly, middle-aged soldier, reminiscing about his past and what he has been working on in his time after the war has officially ended. There is a dry wit to the descriptions and the gentle ordinariness of the commentary only serves to emphasise that the majority of soldiers were just like our (unknown) storyteller. The stories of his wartime exploits are punctuated with sounds of the war, so loud that it feels overwhelming, an immersive way of introducing the audience to the shock and feel of the ever-present cacophony of sound and fear.
The descriptions were graphic: to the soldier, a common occurrence, but to the majority of the audience something of a shock. However, there were men of different ages in the audience who were clearly ex-soldiers and it was apparent from their reactions that the material discussed was an all too easily identifiable truth. At times the changes between the scenes felt a little rushed, but this was the only quibble.
The play focuses on the ordinary men of WWI and their extra-ordinary sacrifice, whether it be with their lives, or with damage both physically and mentally. It is a heart-felt tribute to a generation who gave so much and was changed by it.