Review: LEAVING VIETNAM, Park Theatre

A Vietnam veteran finally confronts his past in Trump's USA

Show of the Week: Tickets From £30 for WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION

Show of the Week: Tickets From £30 for WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTIONJimmy has been making and mending cars for years, overalls on and hands dirty, an industrial job in a post-industrial USA. He's embittered about being left behind and he's angry about something else too. All the years of not talking about it bubbles to the surface when a 'dead man' tracks him down to his workshop and long buried trauma must be faced at last.

Richard Vergette's monologue (he is both writer and performer) gives us a story focused on an ex-Marine but also tells a wider story of how democracies treat veterans of unpopular wars.

It was coincidence I'm sure, but press night came at the end of a day in which many British soldiers who served in the second Iraq war (which started exactly 20 years previously) had spoken in the media of their difficulties in reintegrating into civil society and that sense of emptiness without glory. 'Nam, of course, is the prime example of a war a nation would like to forget, one in which the heroism is washed away by atrocities and defeat.

Vergette gives us an engaging subject. Jimmy ('Dutch' to his fellow Marines) is defined by more than his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more than the stereotype of the MAGA white guy from the Midwest and that's important because it's just as easy to take individuals from non-minority groups and drop them into a box of prejudices as it is to do the same for minorities. We get a man who is not a monster but, with his name on their lips, cynics promote monstrous policies and, as on January 6 in Washington, conduct monstrous actions, something his wife calls out, leading to personal conflict decades on from military conflict.

That said, I wondered why this 70 minutes long piece, a hit at the Edinburgh Festival, warranted a three week run in London. Despite the interest stirred by Ken Burns' epic The Vietnam War, for anyone under 70 the events are before their time. The themes of the play and some of the narrative of Jimmy's life were also covered 44 years ago in Michael Cimino's movie, The Deerhunter, for many an introduction to the updating of shellshock into the more comprehensive PTSD. As was the case in that film, one wondered why the millions of Vietnamese victims of the conflict were given so little space in their own country's story. Others will be reminded of Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump.

For all the craft evident in its construction and delivery, we're left with a familiar American tale with neither its other, Asian, side fully explored nor its relevance to the UK's fracturing social and political environment drawn explicitly. They are the writer's decisions, but it feels like a missed opportunity to explore something more grounded in the perspectives of 21st century UK than in that already explored extensively in 20th century USA.

Leaving Vietnam at Park Theatre until 8 April

Photo Credit: Jane Hobson


Interview: Brodie Donougher A REAL LIFE BILLY ELLIOT STORY!

What do you get when you have a ballet dancer who dreams of making it professionally and showing the world that guys can dance too?  You have a real-life Billy Elliot story, which is happening to someone who played the titular role of Billy on the West End back home in the UK, and is now here in the US studying and training in professional ballet making his dancing dreams a reality! Not only does he dance, but he has done a few acting roles as well and even participated in a professional opera as a dancer. He is taking the role, and making it his real-life story!   At the end of the musical, we see Billy leaving his home and family to head off for training at the Royal Ballet School, so this is like getting to see the story continue beyond the stage!  Broadway World Detroit got a chance to catch up with Brodie Donougher, the last person to play the role of Billy, and see what he’s up to since his days on the West End stage 7 years ago!

Review: BLACK PANTHER IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall

Conducted by Anthony Parnther (isn’t that the perfect name to lead this specific venture?), this European premiere features Massamba Diop on the talking drum, an instrument essential to the score. Diop, who performed the original tracks for director Ryan Coogler, is a force of nature. After a beautiful introduction by Parnther (who surprisingly does a cracking impression of James Earl Jones as Mufasa!), Diop gave a taster for what was to come: a vibrant tattoo that goes hand in hand with masterful storytelling, filling the Hall effortlessly.


Few words grab the attention like murder. And few genres outside immersive theatre can pull you physically into a specific time and place. So why aren’t there more immersive murder productions like this one?


All in all, the evening is like a group session with no guarantees of being called out or receiving answers. Believers will believe, sceptics won’t. Without going into Michael’s “gift”, the two hours are, unfortunately, rather dull. He jumps straight in between tongue-in-cheek jokes and an entertainer’s spirit. A tense silence falls onto the audience and he starts pacing around, trying to “pick up” some “energy”. He is respectful, and kind, almost apologetic for his intrusions into people’s personal lives as he glances into nothingness, pulling information out of thin air.

From This Author - Gary Naylor

Gary Naylor is chief London reviewer for BroadwayWorld ( and feels privileged to see so much of his home city's theatre. He writes about ... (read more about this author)



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