A mysterious lighthouse, on the edge of some coastal, foreign land. I imagine it’s abroad, don’t know why. Maybe it’s the pale pink plastered walls that feel Mediterranean or the ghostly woman that delivers the opening monologue, mythical and vaguely Hamlety. Or perhaps it’s that the word ‘Acedia’ comes from Greece, translating as a moral failing that ruins great men.
It’s an intriguing production from the off, as newbie writer Jay Taylor never discloses a time or a place, simply citing ‘possibly the future, possibly the past.’ There’s a war on, and what he offers are universal themes of warfare and duty. He raises the questions – Why are they fighting? What is it all for? Are beliefs ever questioned? And we try to answer right to the end and even long after we’ve left the theatre.
Jacob, a young military man, has joined the intelligence unit at the lighthouse. A woman ‘The moon’ is held captive upstairs, spoken about like a mythical being. None of the men have seen her but merely heard her cries of interrogation as tensions mount below. She represents a belief, a symbol for what they are fighting for ‘She is the war now.’
Jacob’s ideals and morals position him as an outsider to his fellow men. He is different to his seniors who are loyal to a cause, to patriotism and duty and do so without questioning their true motivations. But Jacob is in search of answers. It’s an acute look at belief systems and how often wars are formed based on passionate ideologies, whereas Jacob feels they should strive to help, assist and do some good – ‘A belief unquestioned is a story half written.’
For a debut play it’s pretty heavy stuff, it’s expertly written and lingers long after the production. Taylor has created a dystopian world in order to explore these essential notions without the clouding of a specific time or place. The staging and soundscape by Helen Coyston and Simon Slater is beautifully atmospheric and enhances the mysticality and intrigue. Roaring booms and gunfire echo outside and flames blaze in the distance to great effect on the intimate stage.
A blinding troop of six carry this stirring, thought provoking piece, directed by Bobby Brook. Cavan Clarke shines as Jacob, a young soldier battling inner turmoil and fighting to be heard over the bravado and compliance of military life. Andrew P Stephen also gives a tremendous performance as the senior officer, hard faced to the brutality of war but emits an air of unpredictability and unease, like he may snap at any moment. This is certainly echoed in Rowan Polonski’s intense portrayal of Troy, a commanding officer bubbling with animalistic fury.
Theatre503 have once again shown themselves to be the cream of the crop when it comes to new writing, and Jay Taylor’s debut play is certainly in brilliant hands. A mind-blowing production that’s not to be missed.
(Photo courtesy Savannah Photographic)