Theatre has a habit of surprising us. Good theatre that is.
And that’s what lies in store next week when Huddersfield Thespians return to the Lawrence Batley Theatre with its latest production, Bully Boy.
The play’s title and its setting – Afghanistan’s combat zone – might be suggestive of a certain type of scenario and the piece certainly offers up thought-provoking and challenging issues .
But approach this play with an open-mind and you will be richly rewarded. Few things, are after all, as they might at first seem.
“It’s as much about the moral issues of military occupation and about the effect on soldiers deployed in these situations,” said the show’s director Alistair Cheetham.
“It’s a contemporary play, written less than three years ago and very different for the Thespians. But in a very good way.”
He first read the play when trawling through pieces to find suitable scripts for the current season.
“Sometimes with plays I start reading them then put them down and come back to them,” he said.
“With this, I couldn’t put it down. I read this cover to cover. The thing about it is that her writing is very natural.”
And the her? That would be the writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig.
“Anybody going in and thinking this is Sandi Toksvig so it is going to be witty and funny needs to know that this is different though she has some very clever, witty and insightful things to say.”
One critic described the plays as “A ferociously gripping story” and Alistair totally agrees.
It’s a two-hander and focuses on Falklands veteran Major Oscar Hadley and Private Edward Clark. The major is sent to Afghanistan to investigate the death of an eight year-old boy. Prime suspect is Clark, an aggressive, institutionalised young soldier.
Gareth Dickinson makes a welcome return to the Thespians after an absence of several years to play the major, his skills tested further by the fact that his character is confined to a wheelchair.
Gareth is a vastly experienced actor and director and just the man to draw out all the nuances of Sandi Toksvig’s script.
Though just 22, Alex Watkins, who plays Eddie, is also an experienced actor and has worked hard to try and understand just what a soldier, two years younger than him, has to deal with in situation such as Iraq. He has trained extensively at Oscars in Huddersfield and appeared in many show. Director Alistair is his dad.
“The play contains strong language. These are, after all, two Army men,” said Alistair. One has 30 years in the forces, the other is four years in, isn’t very well educated and after training was immediately deployed to Iraq. “The language is totally in context with what you might expect in this context. But what I love about this play is that Sandi skews it in ways that you might not expect.”
Performances start on Tuesday and run every evening in the Cellar theatre until Saturday when there is also a matinee. Tickets on 01484 430528.
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