Pink Mist had sell out seasons in 2016 in both Bristol and London, so when I heard it was returning to Bristol Old Vic before its 2017 UK tour I had to see it. Owen Sheers writes with such lyrical beauty that the audience experiences the true stories behind the act of going to war. ‘Pink Mist’ was inspired by thirty interviews with returned servicemen and was originally written for the radio.
Pink Mist at Bristol Old Vic
Usually I choose not to see plays about war, a subject that could be too much to bear for a night out at the theatre. However, there is a power in the stylised use of ensemble movement and poetic verse that leaves the thought of naturalistic delivery in the dust. With tight choreography the audience is taken on an emotional ride of intimacy, love, anger, grief and all the unspoken words that death of a loved one can conjure.
A bare stage filled with six bodies, bodies that create stories with their sinew and bone. The economy of well-placed words creates a density in the storytelling that pulsates with the promise and consequence of war. Outstanding direction and movement by John Retallack and George Mann, evocative and empathic pacing throughout. The sound effects are minimal and yet the cast respond to every small sound physicalising the effects of hypervigilance and trauma.
A rare treat to see a Bristol based production soaked in Bristol music, which takes the audience to intimate places: Dundry Hill, the Thekla, Colston Rd all in a matter of minutes. Although the production has been born and bred in Bristol it is essential that people throughout the UK come and see it. In our current political climate it feels vital that war is not romantised or objectified. The final chant ‘Who wants to play war?’ a remnant from the innocence of the playground, transformed into a raw and painful challenge, is a timely reminder of the universal message that affects us all.
Cleverly cast Dan Krikler, Peter Edwards, Alex Stedman all look far too young for their characters’ experiences and yet portrayed with realism derived from true stories. Sheers writes holistically giving voice to the women left behind and the pieces they pick up when their young men return.
Image by Mark Douet, with thanks