Shoot, I didn’t Mean That and The Last Days of Mankind are two separate plays currently showing at the Tristan Bates Theatre and they center on the theme of war in various forms. To mark the centenary of WWI Pamela Schermann, Time Zone Theatre and British playwrights have teamed up to instil a plethora of war perspectives.
Catriona Kerridge’s comedy Shoot, I didn’t Mean That is an insightful piece that is divided into three narratives: Alexine Lafaber is a woman imprisoned for involuntarily shouting ‘Sieg Heil’ and giving a Nazi salute in Vienna; two secondary school girls acted by Jocasta King and Alexa Hartley prepare to fly into the war zones of Syria; and Emily Blairtow is a fearless interpreter sat in a secure glass box at an international tribunal, possibly the UN.
Lafaber’s reference to basic Nazi and Jew jokes puts the audience in an awkward position but that is what her character is meant to do: to extract and provide insight into what war has done to us and the way we think of war like a taboo and partial stigma. Her character seems to have taken war subconsciously that it has affected her physiologically whilst King and Hartley display a disturbing scene of what foolish teenagers may be doing to themselves in locked classrooms such as re-enacting terrorist hostage scenes due to the, often, corrupted and hyped up media. Blairtow shows her bitterness towards the hypocrisy of governments by drawing devil horns onto her glass screen and singing disco songs to distract her; this is due to her accumulation of anger and frustration of having to deliver cyclical war solutions ironically in a place created as a result of international peace.
Calling Shoot, I didn’t Mean That a comedy is misleading as there won’t be much laughter, only a few. The overall tone is serious and reflective of where war has taken us. The pace is fairly balanced and the gradual development of Kerridge’s characters is succinct. The constant too and fro of three narratives scattered amongst each other is interesting as it keeps the audience engaged and shocked at the same time.
The second play is a new translation of Karl Kraus’s 1922-piece The Last Days of Mankind by Edward Tims and Fred Bridgham. The opening scene is smoky, set in a war zone with our four female actresses in gas marks. The tone is sinister, dangerous and scary. It puts you in no man’s land, instantly. Under Schermann’s direction, it provides snippets from the trenches as told by soldiers, cut throat war journalists, innocent civilians and hyenas (or pirates of war.) With powerful video footage of WWII and Hitler, your heart will be racing at a 100 miles per hour. The constant rhyming couplets are, at times, hard to absorb it as it is set amongst horrible images of conflict, bomb artillery and the sound of guns.
Yet, startling and spine-tinkling as The Last Days of Mankind was, I also, felt nauseous and claustrophobic, but not in the negative sense, but in the dramatic. Listening to the rhyming and cold words brought the immediacy of war to the Tristan Bates Theatre, like a war camp.
Both of these intriguing plays convey the consequences of war. It is not a show to be entertained, it is a visceral experience and audiences will either come out feeling as if they’ve learnt something or, feel, completely overwhelmed. With such stamina and talent from all four-cast members, booming loud voices and video projections, it may be lot to take in. I’d highly recommend you come in with your ears and eyes wide open with a sturdy war helmet – you’re in for a ride.
Last showing was Saturday 18th in Covent Garden – Click here for more details