BWW Review: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, VAULT Festival
Incognito Theatre are back at VAULT Festival with an adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Brutal, visceral, and told in Incognito's own exquisite brand of physical theatre, the show is a moving and detailed retelling of the veteran's account of the Great War from the perspective of the German soldiers.
Five young men detail the harrowing process of training, the humiliations received from their superiors, and the fight for something that's never belonged to them. From Germany's selling war to their own kids as a glamorous and necessary experience to the rising hopelessness slowly stifling any glimmer of positivity, they uncover the human cost of the hostilities.
Their narrative approach is once again exceptionally curated and articulate in its visual quality, and a clear and defined movement direction introduces sophisticated stagecraft and a gift for building striking and descriptive physical scenes. Attentive and smart, their critique to a system that's stolen the boys' youth with the promise of a collective adventure that would bring them glory and success focuses on the internal effects of the war.
The loneliness and desolation of the trenches, the search for the warmth and support of friends, the incidental isolation of those who get to return home, and the spiritual annihilation of the survivors are vivid through Incognito's precise imagery. The brief, silent moments between the resonance of bombs and fury of the battle hit eloquently, uncovering the vulnerability and surrender to bigger forces.
Masculinity and the imperative order to be strong in the face of death and horror take their toll on the troops, who struggle to fend off the imminent and threatening psychological breakdown caused by the losses. As they wonder if they're fighting for the right reasons and whose war it actually is, the group address ideologies and dogma without any frills.
Their reflection on warfare and its capitalisation is chillingly relevant, and the result of their commentary is touching and deeply stirring. They build an electric and thought-provoking piece, succeeding in entertaining whilst educating on the price of conflict.