Edinburgh Fringe, Falkland - The War The World Forgo, Greenside @ Nicolson Square, Heather Bagnall, Imperialism, Luke Tudball, Margaret Thatcher, Tasty Monster Productions, The Falkland Islands, The Falklands War, The Malvinas, Theatre Review
With its dystopian landscape and nonsensical storyline, this play initially resembles a fairly routine production of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame.” Yet the scene is in fact the Falkland Islands and the occasion is the only time in the Falklands’ history when something had happened. It is 1982 and two warmongers, Margaret Thatcher and whoever the Argentinian equivalent was, are preparing to between them slaughter hundreds of young men over the Falklands’ heap of nothingness. We are about to experience the most bumptious, bampot war in the history of British imperialism all over again.
“Falkland” is written by Helen Bagnall and it is currently based in Greenside on Nicolson Square. Luke Tudball is Gideon, a Falkland sheep farmer; Bagnall plays both his wife, Helen, and Fitz, a greenhorn soldier from Belfast who he will befriend. I should have paid more attention to the names in this production, since it and I came to a terrible misunderstanding over one of them. Early in the story, the farmer appears to receive the explosive news that his wife has died after stepping on a landmine. She is lying in the grass with “no face,” and, what’s more, amassed penguins are pecking at her body. What a way to go! I had assumed from Gideon’s stunned reaction that the dead female was his wife, but, no, Gloria is actually one of the sheep.
A very keen performance from Tudball as the doughty shepherd with a crook for a leg cannot compensate for this play’s own oddly handicapped gait. It surely needs three actors, not two, to relieve Bagnall of all the awkwardness of playing both the young soldier and the older housewife. Perhaps this bunching of characters is a deliberate choice, however, and one that is meant to indicate the extent of the growing closeness between Gideon and his newfound military friend. Nevertheless, this friendship does not really deserve to be laminated in such a way. Fitz is stupidly sacrificing his life for nothing whilst Gideon has stubbornly shut himself out of the modern world (he has emigrated here from the UK). These are simply two fools – a Hamm and a Clov – and we should not dwell for so long over their circumstances.
“Falkland” can wage a shrewd anti-war case when it is minded to, particularly when Helen rages that the geopolitical rivals are sending “babies to kill babies.” But Gideon still draws upon some obscure sense of identity, rendering his story more thoughtful and even-handed than is really tolerable in such an emotionally charged conflict. This play will never entertain the prospect that the islands should have been flatly surrendered. It will not allow that it would have been altogether preferable to airlift the civilians out of there instead of murdering over six hundred Argentinian soldiers. Prohibited from advancing this clarion solution, the drama stops short at a kind of Blackadder Goes Forth wry despair about the absurdity of war.
Gideon is allowed to call Margaret Thatcher “our” Prime Minister without any comeback. She is not his Prime Minister – he cannot vote for an MP in the UK’s parliament. The rock that he lives on supposedly belongs to the Crown but he is a citizen of nowhere. Some of this anti-citizenship is successfully conveyed by the play’s subtitle “The War that Time Forgot.” The Land that Time Forgot, the adventure novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, had described a world that was inhabited by miraculously preserved dinosaurs. Gideon’s dinosaur sensibility is just as monstrous and extinct as the British imperialism that has come back from the dead to save his sorry arse.