THEATRE B A Reviews My Boy Jack by David Haigh New Theatre Cardiff REVIEWS

My Boy Jack

New Theatre

A Short Life

It is enlightening to understand why a loving father would wish to help his son gain a place in the army in order to fight in the Great War. From our 21st Century perspective it appears shocking and naïve that a parent would wish this on a son who could easily avoid having to fight due to severe myopia. Later his mother tells us that he was 18 years and 6 weeks old.

This is a beautifully balanced play written by David Haig, who takes the part of Rudyard Kipling, father of Jack. We see how the four members of the family interact and the effect of the war on them and on some soldiers. The young Jack, John Kipling played by Ben Silverstone wishes to escape the house and his father and is therefore happy to enlist. His mother and sister are unhappy: Caroline Kipling, his mother, a powerful performance by Belinda Lang, knows that there is nothing she can do and Elsie, his sister, actress Rosanna Lavelle, believes that he will be killed if he goes to fight. All the while Rudyard believes that it is the only thing to do, would gladly go himself if he could and delivers many patriotic speeches in his attempt to have everyone understand the importance of resisting the possibility of a German invasion. He is a famous author and poet; his songs sung by the troops at the front and he firmly believes that the British way of life is the best.

The most powerful scene is when a wounded soldier from Jack's platoon comes to tell the family what he saw two years previously, at the Battle of Loos. Centre stage, Guardsman Bowe, injured and damaged by gas and shell shock tells the tale with great difficulty in a wonderful cameo by Simon Wolfe. As shocking as the news is, Rudyard, regardless of the reactions of his wife and daughter, does not flinch in his belief that his son did the right thing. He is devastated by the loss of his son, but sees that it is a necessary sacrifice.

Directed gently by John Dove, this play is an ideal way to understand the ways of a bygone era, history brought to life, if only for a short time. Go to see it and experience the emotions that I cannot convey in print. © JD

“My Boy Jack” is at the New Theatre Cardiff from the 21st of June until the 26th of June, 2004.

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