The Trench (5 stars)

This article is from 2012

The Trench

Photo: Jannica Honey

Pitch-perfect evocation of the theatre of war

Les Enfants Terribles have built a formidable reputation for playfully macabre tales mixing drama, music and inventive staging to create gothic fantasies reminiscent of Tim Burton’s oeuvre. The latest from the company’s writer Oliver Lansley draws on all their accumulated skills to present a story not from the horror genre but the grim realities of war in a pitch-perfect demonstration of atmospheric theatre.

As a lost soldier fights his way through a battlefield the monstrosity of his situation manifests in the appearance of demonic elements and a diabolical pact. Taking their cue from the grotesque physicality of life (and death) in the trenches, the actors ooze out of the scenery like maggots from a corpse, the malleable stage enables walls to become roofs to become ground, and the use of expertly-wielded puppets further blurs the line between the animate and the dead. LET’s experience in creating sinister worlds works perfectly with the subject matter to create a devastatingly emotive glimpse into hell on earth.

Counterpoint to the grim action is a melancholic collection of songs specially composed and played live by Alexander Wolfe, and his haunting, Guy Garvey-esque vocals are worth the ticket price alone. LET have made use in the past of on-stage musicians and instruments incorporated into the set design. Here, rather than a pleasing addition, it is seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the experience and combines with the poetic cadences of Lansley’s Gatling-gun rapid script to provide a fully-fledged realisation of the theatre of war. Focussing on evoking an experience, the production avoids offering necessarily inadequate answers to an event as incomprehensible as WWI. This is no staid remembrance to valorise the fallen. Instead, LET takes the audience down into the mire to prove that the monsters are never far away.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 27 Aug (not 14, 25), 1.10pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11).

The Trench

The Trench

  • 5 stars

A play inspired by the true story of a miner who became entombed underground in a collapsed tunnel during the First World War. Written by Oliver Lansley and with live music by Alexander Wolfe.

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