Hostage Situation at the Village Hall with Winged Daggers
Peter Daly-Dickson as Vinnie
Winged Daggers by Richard Morelli, The Saints, Allesley Village Hall, Coventry, from 16 – 20 May.
Review by Ann Evans.
Drama came to Allesley Village Hall with a vengeance with the production of a new hard hitting and powerful drama written and directed by Richard Morelli. Winged Daggers was originally written as an episode of ‘Doctors’ from when Writer/Director Richard Morelli was working on the programme. He felt so strongly about his original concept that he kept and refined it over the next few years in the background whilst working in various capacities on other BBC shows. It was only when Richard joined the Saints that the notion of turning his work thus far into a play was developed.
Reading about Richard Morelli’s intentions with this production, his aims were to highlight a number of serious issues going on in the world today. To quote: addressing traditional gender roles, the two-step flow nature of trauma, militarising children in the first world, the prevalence of private military companies in modern conflicts, and the battlefield of parenting. And in retrospect all of these aspects do come across through these characters. But for audiences who are ‘in the moment’ it’s not so obvious.
Peter Daly-Dickson as Vinnie and Daniel Peckett as James.
From the very start, the Saints Drama Group got into the swing of things, with armed police surrounding the village hall checking out those entering the building. However, this fun element of the pre-show action was the only light-heartedness of the evening. The mood changed when act one introduced us to Vinnie (Peter Daly Dickson) a war veteran suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Regardless of what you thought of the character, his portrayal of this traumatised and paranoid old man, was outstanding, and just watching him struggling wordlessly to move about his house seemed to stun the audience into silence. I think everyone was holding their breath as he shuffled around the stage, on the verge of collapse, trying to cope with life while the ominous rumble of a storm and fireworks outside were, in his head, explosions from the battlefield.
Maria Sheovska as Louisa, Joanna Stevely as Katarina and Peter Daly-Dickson as Vinnie.
Not giving away any spoilers but circumstances of that night result in him taking a young man hostage. The hapless individual was James, (Daniel Peckett) innocently knocking on doors to spread God’s word. From this moment we see a more dangerous and violent side to Vinnie, and a very intense and moving performance from Daniel Peckett who is terrified not only for his own life, but the life of his captor.
For the duration of act one, apart from a few nervous laughs at moment where flashes of dark humour seep through, you could have heard a pin drop in that audience. It was incredibly tense, very atmospheric and at times quite sinister; and you really feared for what might happen next.
Daniel Peckett as James face to face with Vinnie - Peter Daly-Dickson.
This certainly isn’t a play that will appeal to everyone. It’s extremely violent, there’s strong adult language, there are scenes that shock and could distress people, and while there isn’t any nudity, we do have Vinnie performing the whole of act one and some of act two in his underpants.
From a critical point of view, what I found most difficult – and frustrating, was hearing all that was being said. The important back story including the issues this play wanted to bring to the fore came across through the dialogue, but Vinnie was speaking in a very strong Glaswegian accent which wasn’t easy to decipher especially when the words were spilling out fast and furiously – or at times, so softly.
With act two I found this to be quite a problem, as we’d gone back in time 25 years to when Vinnie was 41 and separated from his wife Katarina (Joanna Stevely). He now has a frightened 12-year-old Eastern European orphaned girl - Louisa (Maria Sheovska) living in his home who he intends to train into a ‘mercenary-style’ killer. The how, where and why practicalities of this I'm sure would have come across through the dialogue, but alas was not made clearly apparent due to the strong dialect, and my companion and I (and nearby audience individuals) were left with more questions than answers.
To be honest, for me, Winged Daggers was a play in two halves – act one shocking but incredible and darkly enjoyable. Act two rather confusing. Nevertheless, it highlighted a lot of mental health issues and also raised money through its raffle and merchandise sale for Help for Heroes.
For more information and to book tickets: http://www.thesaintsdramacoventry.co.uk/ or call the Box Office 07927 319985.