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Ross Ericson’s ‘Casualties’: Love and War Review

| Theatre | 24/06/2013

Finlay Robertson and Alex Ferns in rehearsals for Casualties at Park Theatre

The newly-built Park Theatre in Finsbury Park is a fitting venue for Ross Ericson’s latest offering ‘Casualties’.  Ericson, an actor who has recently turned his hand to writing, has received critical acclaim for previous works such as his adaptation of Henry Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’.  ‘Casualties’ is another creditable piece to come to the stage.

Gary (Alex Ferns) and Mike (Finlay Robertson) are two bomb disposal experts on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Gary is keen to escape the domestic tedium of life with his wife Emma and return to what he perceives to be the real business of living, because “everything else is waiting”.  A series of events tests both his resolve and his friendship with Mike.  The events unfolding in Afghanistan have unforeseen repercussions on the home front.  ‘Casualties’ considers the evolving relationship between the two soldiers and the collateral damage wrought back home.

The script is both natural and credible, punctuated by pithy military humour – a testament to Ericson’s personal military experience. However, the play perhaps falls short of its intended impact in the 90 minute performance. Ericson’s script is based on actual events but the occasionally truncated and emotionally fuelled scenes, sometimes seem to veil the grim reality in melodrama.

Nevertheless, moments of considerable clarity prove to illuminate the topicality of the production.  With western troops set to pull out of Afghanistan and the U.S. preparing for negotiations with the Taliban, ‘Casualties’ touches on the futility of a war that cannot be won, and a society that cannot be changed.

Gary, played by Alex Ferns, famous for his performance as Trevor Morgan in Eastenders, gives a solid performance as friend and husband, striking a sound balance between stoic and jovial soldier.  Emma Stansfield is convincing and moving in her portrayal of Emma under fire during a Priestley-esque interrogation by Peter (Patrick Toomey), an investigating officer, as he tries fiercely to piece together the relationship between the three, a relationship that becomes more fractured as the play progresses.

Produced on what appears to be a shoe-string budget, the set is uncomplicated and allows for a smooth transition from home front to front line.  However the somewhat cramped traverse staging causes a few difficulties of visibility for those not seated in the first two rows. Nonetheless, Katharine Heath’s resourceful use of a humble kitchen at one end of the stage and, at the other, a mound of sand, successfully transforms the narrow stage, creating a striking juxtaposition between Afghanistan and humdrum suburban life.  Aided by the subtle yet powerful sound and lighting, the set does not detract from the actors’ performances.

With only the odd lapse into Albert Square melodrama, Ross Ericson’s play ‘Casualties’ is honest and thought-provoking with some fine acting from the cast of four.


Lauren Sutherland


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