Review: Love Your Soldiers, Sheffield Crucible

Chris Reilly as Cullen and Chris Leask as Ken in Love Your Soldiers.  Photo: Robert Day
Chris Reilly as Cullen and Chris Leask as Ken in Love Your Soldiers. Photo: Robert Day
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Richard Wilson is recognised as one of the best directors of new work in the country.

He played a large part in shepherding this work to the stage, from the moment Robin Hooper suggested he would tell the story, to realising it on the stage of the Crucible Studio.

The assumption has to be that Wilson has simply become too close to the piece to be able to see its many faults. Love Your Soldiers is a story that is, at its heart, simple. Two brothers, both soldiers, one girl.

Then Hooper adds a benevolent shopkeeper with the inside track on Afghanistan – helpful to the serving soldiers – and a confidante for the girl. And in Afghanistan one of the brothers makes a young friend. A young, male friend, who it transpires is ‘owned’ as a sexual slave, an Afghani tradition known as ‘bacha bazi’. Then one of the soldiers is severely injured and left disabled while serving.

It all becomes too much of a tangled web, and when the story is so dense and complex, it is difficult to see the characters with clarity – so we forget who we are supposed to care for and more importantly, why. The set – enormous considering the intimacy of the Crucible’s Studio – is another distraction. It feels as though a massive box of tricks has been thrown at this production to make up for an overly confusing script.

What the confusion does mean is that any element of clarity really shines through. This means the brilliant performances from Chris Leask as the uninjred soldier Ken, Charlotte Beaumont as Gemma, the girl in the middle and Nabil Elouahabi as the shopkeeper really shine through the tangled mess of the rest of the piece.

To Nov 23.