Another Man's Eden
Performed in the Unicorn Theatre 23 - 26 September 2015
by Tony Green
I have to admit that I was a little cautious about going to watch ‘Another Man’s Eden’. Having followed the Facebook newsfeed from the casting to the final rehearsal, I knew that the play, written by cast member, Tony Green, is set in war-torn Afghanistan. The on-going conflict is a high-profile and emotive news story that has been brought into our homes every day, thanks to newspapers, radio and television. Did I really want to spend my Saturday evening watching a play mirroring the distressing news that I hear every day?
When I entered the beautiful Unicorn Theatre I was not surprised to see that the simple set, designed by Malcolm Ross and Keith Hales, had cleverly transformed the medieval building into a modern working space with desks, laptops and a flip-chart. The projected image above the set told the in-coming audience that we were in Camp Bastion.
Michael Ward’s creative use of lighting, sound and projected films opened the play and set the mood immediately. The helicopters ‘flying’ overhead helped to create the illusion that we had been transported to Helmand Province. Indeed, at least one member of the audience looked up whenever the helicopter could be heard!
I felt uncomfortable during the first few minutes of dialogue. I’m not a prude but I do not like the use of bad language in a play, especially when I am sitting by my 77 year-old mother who is squeezing my hand tighter at each swearword! Thankfully, my personal discomfort and that of my hand didn’t last long. It soon became evident that the language was making the scene real. The banter between the characters was believable and the four-lettered expletives helped to create the reality.
I was aware that Tony had written a play based on his personal experience in a medical unit in Helmand. This led me to believe that I was not in for an evening of laughter. I was therefore surprised when, in the first few minutes, as well as cringing because of the swearing, I found myself laughing out loud.
Tony’s fictional story covers a 12 hour night shift in the Hospital Operations Room and the work of those on duty. He has included actual conversations and events as he experienced them – the friendly rivalry between colleagues during periods of inactivity and the tangible camaraderie when they are called to duty. Thankfully, his clever use of humour lightened moments of palpable despair.
Maria Crocker’s imaginative vision as the play’s director showed that the subject matter was close to her heart and she chose a cast and backstage crew that embraced her vision and, under her direction, brought it to fruition. She should be very proud of their collective achievements.
I hate to single out performers as each member of cast performed well. But, I feel compelled to mention the scene in which Lee Orchard is seen sitting alone on a chair, head in hands, as he comes to terms with the trauma he has seen. The support given by his colleague, played by Laura King, was heart-felt and poignant and I felt tears pricking my eyes. Then, later, I was moved when John Hawkins delivered his speech about the events of war being ‘no-one else’s business but your own’.
These are just a couple of moments out of many that touched me that evening and left me thinking about how the dedication of these unsung heroes can mean the difference between life and death for soldiers and civilians severely-wounded on the battlefield.
It has been said that theatre can be used as a medium to tell a tale and get a message across. Indeed, I feel that Another Man’s Eden proved to me that it can have far greater impact than newspapers, radio and even television.
I would like to thank each member of the cast and the supporting crew for an entertaining and informative evening. It’s been many years since I have been to see an ADC play. I promise that I won’t stay away so long in the future.
Tanya Wakeford - Drama Teacher