pink mist

Picture: Mark Douet

Pink Mist

Birmingham Rep Studio


It dawns on you a little way into Owen Sheers’ Pink Mist that this is a performance that, on all levels, is executed with military precision.

That fact is no coincidence as here just six actors effectively and powerfully tell the story of three young teenage men who join the armed services and of their time serving in Afghanistan.  They do so with nothing more than the props of a wheelchair and a low wooden bench, a few well-placed lighting cues and the impressive sound design work of Jon Nicholls.

Sound is a crucial part of this production as it was originally created for radio and grew from interviews Sheers made with actual wounded service personnel. The result is a crafted, brutal but beautifully sounding account of a joint war story that feels so accurate and compelling you feel every word to be true.

There are three childhood friends. Arthur (Dan Krickler) is the lead voice. He’s now 19 years of age and bored with his job on the docks, the pub and club life around Bristol and is now looking for a purpose.

He signs up for the military on the imagined promise of getting fit and seeing the world and then inspires his two mates Taff (Peter Edwards) and Hads (Alex Steadman) into joining him. The trio head off to the war zone with thoughts that their lives will be made but instead they return with them in tatters.

Of course there are the women who wait behind for them and who are also affected. Gwen (Rebecca Hamilton) Arthur’s girlfriend, in the end has her entire future taken from her. Lisa (Rebecca Killick) partner of Taff and mother of his young child is left to nurse him through the lasting mental torture of his experiences on his return. Finally there’s Sarah (Zara Ramm), Hads’ mother, dealing with the trauma of her son’s life changing injuries.

Collectively these six actors are beautifully coordinated in their compelling performances and the work of directors John Rettlak and George Mann is evident throughout. The detailed physical movement on stage and the complete integration of sound effects, music and lighting adds layers of subtlety and explosive action where needed, to bring every facet of the stories to life.

Peter Harrison’s lighting design is effective too, aided by a large square screen at the rear of an empty set carrying simple basic faded images to represent the different locations and events of the story.

Crucially though it is Sheers’ dynamic and thought provoking words. They shift from the atmospheric depictions of the romance of a boy’s war to the heart wrenching tales of desperation, violence and revenge. Throughout though is a strong sense of comradery and belonging. It’s a war they fight for each other not their country. 

Pink Mist is a shining example of what theatre can achieve. This minimalist production with its powerful support of lighting and sound pulls you in so emotionally to the lives of these young people that you believe their accounts must be real.

There have been plays and stories of war over the years but none capture the complexity of its brutality and its effect on young lives in such an effective way or as well as Pink Mist. To 25-03-17

Jeff Grant


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