BWW Review: SOMEWHERE A GUNNER FIRES, King's Head Theatre
Somewhere a Gunner Fires at the King's Head Theatre is a haunting piece about the First World War and how it affected people from many nations and backgrounds. The Cavalry Theatre play follows six different characters in interweaving stories based on true events. This is the world premiere of the piece, which is written, directed, and starred in by Tom Stuchfield.
The play follows the stories of six people: a British soldier and his French lover whose family were destroyed by the war, an Austrian solider and his Italian wife, an American soldier who never wanted to fight, and a British soldier who prefers nature to people. Each one of them experiences the hardships of war in different ways from occupation to being on the front lines.
The show is based on Stuchfield's family history and his character, Spencer, is based on his great-grandfather, as he tells the audience at the beginning. The piece has been a work in progress for many years, having two previous versions called And The Horse You Rode In On and The Cavalry Behind You.
The show is staged uniquely, with all the actors standing in a line across the stage and only lit when their character's story is being told. Katy Gerard does a fabulous job with the lighting design by making it clear which character the audience should pay attention to.
There is no action in the whole show and the scenes are narrated by the other actors, with some adding in the extra dialogue as well. It is a very simple staging, but effective as it leaves the focus completely on the language.
Stuchfield does a splendid job as Spencer, showing the conflict of a man who would rather be at home than on the front lines. There is something quite touching about seeing him play a character based on his own relative.
Guy Clark shines as Dixon, a British soldier who experiences PTSD and prefers animals and plants to people. He did a brilliant job portraying the physical effects of living in a war zone and the scenes in which he is home but experiencing flashbacks were particularly poignant.
Mathilde, a French woman whose life has been torn apart by war, is played beautifully by Julia Kass as she juggles a French accent and a sarcastic humour.
Somewhere a Gunner Fires is an insightful piece about the horrors of the First World War that doesn't romanticize the war in the way much media about it does. Despite very simplistic almost non-staging, there is quite vivid imagery created through the language of the play. The production marks the 100th anniversary of World War I's ceasefire in 1918.
Photo Credit: Alex Brenner