AboutTommy


Southwark Playhouse; love it.

It is a little bit tricky to locate, but a real treasure once you find it. Epitomizing independent fringe theatre, it is truly original both in its location and repertoire. It is the only theatre that I actually want to live in and a shame that they are moving to Elephant & Castle. Currently it is located underneath Hell-On-Earth aka London Bridge’s Platform 1. Inside the railway vault the brickwork and murky air makes my imagination run unusually romantic and it feels a little bit like being part of a revolting underground culture movement á la Swing Kids. The bar is a wicked place to be; they have a real confession booth standing in a corner, need I say more? So, great venue, great atmosphere but what about the show?

About Tommy is a Danish play (Om Tommy) by Thor Björn Krebs, which together with Europamestrene in 2004 gave him a double nomination for Årets Reumert as Best Playwright. It tells the story of Tommy who is a Danish UN-soldier placed at the centre of violent conflicts during the war in the Balkans in the 1990’s. The absurdity of war is exposed as the regulations of the UN Protection Force limits the soldiers to do little else but to observe the brutality of human evil. The cast impressed as several roles were split between a trio of two men and one woman. Tommy’s psychological development is given from the beginning, in the same way that it is in most recent war films, but a captivating performance makes it nonetheless engaging to follow. Tommy’s parents are made up by two dolls with pre-recorded performances projected onto their heads, which I thought was quite clever. It formed an illusionary view of that which is us; the people at home who can never come close to understand what war is like, making Tommy’s experience so much more real and affecting. The parents aside, I felt there was an excess of technology used on the stage. Call me old-fashion but I strongly object to the television screens planted randomly all over the set and Tommy’s video projections on the sand-bag wall. Maybe it helps create a documentary feeling, as the play is based on interviews and documents from the war, but I only found it distracting and annoying for my eyes. I don’t know, maybe I need glasses.

The effect of About Tommy is that you become painfully aware of the enormous breach between our ordinary, everyday secure lives and the terror and inhumanity of war, which I reduce to a Sky News feature, but is in fact other people’s reality. And even though this is nothing new, there is a constant need to be reminded. The paradox created by UN’s need to stay neutral also feels suitably current as the ongoing UN Racism conference is turning into complete shambles.

Running next at the Southwark Playhouse is The Exquisite Corpse, and it sounds well exciting.