Cockpit review at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘a resonant revival’
It’s taken almost 70 years for there to be a revival of Bridget Boland’s Cockpit. Written in 1948, this immersive play is set in a German theatre requisitioned by the British Allied Command as a transit camp for Displaced Persons in 1945. But as the well-meaning Captain Ridley attempts to divide the DPs between convoys going east and west – failing to grasp any subtlety of their political and ethnic divisions – it starts to feel increasingly contemporary.
Wils Wilson certainly directs it as such, taking over the whole of the Lyceum. Banners hang from the circle and the use of on-stage seating makes the audience part of the scenery. The seats even shake when the transit lorries arrive, such is the technical brilliance of her team. Aly Macrae’s music, a mix of East European styles sung by the cast, enhance the modern feel.
Ridley, brilliantly played by Peter Hannah, regards continental Europe as a monolithic entity. His attempts to enforce unity by imposing democracy fail, while true unity is achieved by those coming together against a common cause – when Alexandra Mathie’s Professor discovers Bubonic Plague in the circle, or when the people eventually unite against the British liberators themselves.
Wilson draws great performances from her cast, capturing the bitterness, need and weariness of those who had lived through years of Nazi control. Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s immersive design is well-used and there’s a moment of magic, when Sandra Kassman’s lost amnesiac finds her voice as an opera singer, that illustrates how, when we find our common humanity, we lose sight of our differences.