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Falkland Sound - A New Perspective on a Far Away War

L-R:Tom Milligan, Joanne Howarth, Alvaro Flores, Oliver Hembrough, Avita Jay, Anyebe Godwin Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC

Falkland Sound by Brad Birch, the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 16 September 2023 Directed by Aaron Parsons.

Review by Wynne Lang

On an island 8,000 miles away from Britain, the small, close-knit community gets on with their day to day lives unaware that turmoil was brewing. Military forces from Argentina and Britain would soon tear through the islands and send the inhabitants into a world of confusion and terror. It is this backdrop that the play captures so vividly while developing the audience’s connection with the ten characters who represent the island’s way of life.

This may seem to be a grim subject for a play but the quality of the writing and the talent of the cast bring an energy and warmth that is captivating. The use of dance and singing draw in the audience, alongside a clever use of humour (there are a number of laugh aloud moments). The use of miniature buildings on set creates a powerful reminder that these are the homes that the community love and value. These rustic wooden dwellings are picked up frequently and moved around, reflecting the disorientation the islanders must have felt.

Joanne Howarth as Mrs Hargreaves. Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC.

Of course, this is a play that is dealing with the consequences of political decisions and Brad Birch, the writer, must be congratulated on portraying the failing British and Argentinian governments as both incompetent and desperate while giving a sympathetic portrayal of both the very young Argentinian and British soldiers who also were pawns in this political game.

As Brad Birch considers this a history play, there is inevitably much ‘telling not showing’, and although this approach is not usually one audiences appreciate, it works here as the ten characters who represent the islanders are so well-drawn. By the end, we feel we know them all and understand the challenges they faced not simply from the invaders, but also the tensions between themselves which bubble to the surface. The gradual ostracism of the Argentinian biologist Gabriel, who had been part of the community for a long time, is poignantly presented, and we feel for him when after the liberation he can no longer see a future for himself on the Falklands.

Simon Rivers, Oliver Hembrough (back), Lauren Patel, Tom Milligan, Anyebe Godwin.Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC.

The main focus of the play is the island’s inhabitants, who have usually been supporting cast when previous histories of the war concentrated on the political and military action. The play shows clearly why they want to be British, but also portrays the cynical disregard of them as people before and after the conflict. It is likely, especially if you remember those tumultuous days, you might attend the play with pre-conceived ideas as to whether the war should have been fought or not. It’s a strength of the play that in either case there will be moments which make you reflect on what you have always believed.

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