Pink Mist, Bristol Old Vic and touring

revspink1PICTURE pink mist … tiny droplets of blood and flesh filling the air … shot to smithereens, we used to say.

The definition of the title doesn’t come until late on in poet, novelist,  presenter and teacher Owen Sheers’ first play, currently back where it started at Bristol Old Vic for a third time, at the start of an 11-venue UK tour. The Welsh writer immersed himself in Bristol to create this shattering story of three young men anxious to get out of a provincial rut and nurturing a childhood belief that war was something you played at.

How different was the reality for Arthur, Taff and Hads, schoolfriends who enlisted together to join The Rifles, travelled together to Afghan­istan, and returned to their childhood homes changed men.

Taff was a father at 17, Arthur an energy-filled dreamer bored with parking Mazdas in the docks, Alex, the youngest not sure that a job in Next at Cribbs Causeway was what he REALLY wanted. All three discovered something new in the Army, a new family, new responsibilities.

Set against the Bristolian club scene and the city’s downs and rivers, Sheers has uncovered timeless truths in this violent, beautiful and poetic play. It’s no surprise that he has written in iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets evoking Greek tragedy. What IS a surprise is that it sounds so modern, fits snuggly into the trip-hop rhythms of the clubs the boys hide out in.

revspink3And that means it attracts audiences of huge variety, many of them young students whose school lives have never encompassed theatre before, and who sit in stunned stillness and silence in the dark of the Old Vic as the story unfolds.

On the day that the Crisis charity reported “an appalling rate” of rough sleeping, after a 16% annual increase, the play offers one explanation that might make you look again at the bundles of duvet and dogs on strings in the shop doorways … or might not.

revspink2Five of the six actors, Alex Stedman as Hads, Zara Ramm as his mother, Peter Edwards as Taff and Rebecca Killick as his teenage wife, and Rebecca Hamilton as Arthur’s girlfriend, all return to the roles they created on the play’s first run. There is a new Arthur, in the form of Dan Krikler. Dan trained as a music theatre specialist, honing his craft as a dance captain in the big musicals. But he got bored, and signed on for an MA  in acting. Taking on the massive central role created to huge critical acclaim by Phil Dunster, Dan was a bit nervous.

He need not have worried. His Arthur is a brilliant success, steeped in Bristolian accent and balancing that tightrope between bravado and sensitivity that is the heart of the play.

Directors John Retallack and George Mann bring choreographed visions of falling snow, playing children, dancing teens and warring soldiers as the play reaches its powerful climax in a  wrenching anti-war cry.



Photographs by Mark Douet

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