This week's A Play, A Pie, and A Pint serving offers up a double bill of short dramas, looking at the effect the horrors of war have on front-line soldiers.
Weakest of the two by a long way is Loyalty by Mike Gonzalez. In it Daniel Boyd plays a young man on the dole with no family and no prospects who signs up for, what he's promised by Harry Ward's army recruitment officer, is a well-paid profession, full of "opportunity" and "adventure". Once on tour of duty he becomes disillusioned and questions what he's fighting for. The blatantly obvious socio-political observation that poor, working class youth make up much of the armed forces, turned into a few scenes, isn't so much thin as positively anorexic.
Far more rewarding, and emotionally engaging, is Operation Phantom Fury by regular Ken Loach collaborator and writer of Angel's Share, Paul Laverty. Black Watch and River City star Michael Nardone turns in a thrilling performance delivering the monologue of a traumatised ex-soldier haunted by remembrances of his time spent serving in Iraq.
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At the play's core is the legacy for the future left after the bombing of Fallujah, codenamed Operation Phantom Fury, which just happened to coincided with a generation of deformed babies being born, disturbing images of which are shown on a screen behind him. "No proof," of course, he says. This is the real phantom fury that plagues him. Laverty's writing is full of gallows humour, and – despite its brevity – the piece packs a real punch, with Nardone's finale rendition of Andy Stewart's A Scottish Soldier chilling.
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