Pink Mist review at the Bush Theatre, London – ‘devastating and poetic’
For most people the realities of modern warfare are uncomfortable, but rarely extend beyond the 10 o’clock news. So what happens when those truths become real life?
Owen Sheers’ verse poem, originally commissioned for BBC Radio 4, comes to the Bush after its 2015 premiere at the Bristol Old Vic. It tells the story of three Bristol boys, who enlist to join the army in search of a life – a life beyond the drum of the everyday, beyond a world where their highest prospect is an assistant manager job at Next.
Sheers’ devastating story – inspired by interviews with soldiers and their families – goes on to see the boys deployed to Afghanistan and the life-changing impact that has not only on them, but on their mothers, their wives, their girlfriends.
Physical storytelling runs throughout the narrative, which occasionally slows, only to be hurled back into the fray. Sheers’ text, performed by an assured cast, is poetic not only in its form but in its storytelling, which wholly inhabits Emma Cains’ blank canvas of a set. It is shaped by colour: the fiery orange of an exploding IED, the pink mist of bodies exploding in the dust.
It is a poignant, timely reminder of the fragility – and futility – of human life in conflict. John Retallack and George Mann’s production throws us as an audience temporarily into this uncomfortable scenario, however it is impossible not to think, when leaving the auditorium, of the thousands for whom it is so heartbreakingly real.