Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"An Advert for the Army" - April 2008

Oran Mor's 'A Play, A Pie and A Pint' season has put together a strong team for Kieran Lynn's "An Advert for the Army". Director D C Jackson is getting great reviews for his own play "The Wall", while each of the cast of three had impressed us in a previous show. Add in the premise of a filmmaker reluctantly making an army recruitment advert with a cast of two soldiers and I was really looking forward to this one.

Ryan Fletcher puts in an excellent performance as squaddie Barrett who has been press ganged into appearing in the advert. Only last week I'd commented to Waldorf that I'd missed Fletcher's performance in "Black Watch" when we'd seen it second time around, so it was a nice surprise to see him back in uniform. Fletcher has some of the play's best moments and is perfectly comfortable with both the comic and serious aspects of his role.

While I enjoyed Tam Dean Burn's portrayal of filmmaker Nils, the character is written for maximum amusement value and I'd have liked to have seen it toned down a little - there's enough humour in the dialogue and situation that the decision to make him a caricature American seemed unnecessary.

Carmen Pieraccini gives a fine performance as tough-talking soldier Sarah attempting to limit Nils' outlandish plans and ensure the role of female soldiers isn't misrepresented. Her portrayal of 'acting' is particularly effective and she sets up a wonderful dynamic with Fletcher's Barrett.

Taken as a whole it certainly made for an enjoyable lunchtime performance and provided plenty of laughs along the way, but I felt the tone of the writing was uneven and the structure problematic. The shift from out-and-out comedy to a more considered finale didn't completely work for me - largely because it lacked the courage to commit 100% to the switch and attempted to retain some of the comedy. It had very impressively silenced the audience and it would have been a great way to leave them - rather than go back for a couple more giggles. The structure doesn't help as the show reaches what feels like a natural end point, but then goes for one more scene. I understand why, as Fletcher's final speech as Barrett is a magnificent piece of writing and is brilliantly delivered - I just wish it could have been placed elsewhere.

As it stands "An Advert for the Army" works well and I doubt many in the audience will leave less than happy, but I hope this isn't the end for the play. There's enough here that with a little more polish it could become something that deserves a wider audience.

'An Advert for the Army' runs at Oran Mor until Saturday 12th April
Image by Leslie Black used with permission