What do Fringe veterans JEREMY WELLER and GUY MASTERSON know about killing? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Words: Andrew Burnet
Almost every day, news bulletins beam footage in from one war-zone or another — but how can we understand what it’s like to be there? This year, two major players on the Fringe plan to tackle that question, staging shows about the effects of (ornbat on the people who wage war
- those who live in the presence of death, inflict it on others, and cope With that experience for the rest of their lives
’What’s it like being in those situations? How can these people teach us about the extremes of human nature?’ 80 asks Jeremy Weller, director of the Edinburgh- based Grassmarket Project, whose show, Soldiers, is performed by actual combat veterans. Appearing in the show are war reporter Jane Kokan, plus four real-life soldiers, including a still-servmg Croatian general, Nl( k GlasnoVic, whose Views on war may surprise.
’He‘s killed a lot of times,' explains Weller, ’and he says, "In war, you see the best of a man, you see who he is Is he a kind of beast, or is he a person With principles? Does he really care about other human beings? Does he get a bloodlust and want to destroy?" '
Weller has himself come under fire, repeatedly accused of exploiting the life—stories of those who appear in his verite- style shows: the home- less (Glad), the youth- fully criminal (Bad) and the mentally unstable (Mad). He iankles at the persistent criticism, but stands firm. ’I only do plays that I think have something to tell us about humanity,’ he argues. ’l’m utterly disgusted that the media use war as a form of entertainment. Perhaps my work acknowledges that — that I must entertain to inform but underneath all that, I want to engage the audience in a debate about the moral issues'
'l'm utterly disgusted that the media use war as a form of entertainment.’ Jeremy Weller
Armed and dangerous: Guy Masterson as Ken Lukowiak (left), and an image by Bruno Belff from Soldiers
Elsewhere on the Fringe, Guy Masterson has family reasons for engaging this SUbJQCI matter. The renowned solo performer is half-American, and his brother served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam ’He doesn’t talk about it really,’ says Masterson, ’but when he did, the profundity of his exp- QFIOHCG \NiiS SO lll()Vlli(} that I was desperately trying to understand what a soldier must go through '
The condun for Masterson's investigation is A Soldier’s Song by Falklands veteran Ken LukoWiak, a best-selling masterpiece of battlefield memoir, blending traumatic revelation With cathartic black comedy.
’When he wrote it, it was ten years after the event and he was struggling With his post-traumatic stress.
He had terrible uncontrolled explains Masterson, ’lt’s going to be very hard-hitting at times, but there's also an enormous amount of humour, and it’s the black, sick humour that you often get when people are trying to block out what’s really happening l’m antiCipating walkouts at various parts, and I don’t mind that particularly’
With the Bosnian conflict still fresh in our minds, it \‘Jlll be hard to ignore such material To those who regard the Fringe as a war-zone, it Will he a salutary reminder that missing that 10pm show is hardly a life-threatening issue
Soldiers by The Grassmarket Project, Traverse Theatre, Tue 11 Aug-Sat 5 Sep, times vary, £9 (£6). A Soldier’s Song by Guy Masterson, Observer Assembly, Sun 9 Aug-Sat 5 Sep, 11.30am, £81£9 (£7/£8); preview Sat 8 Aug, £5.
Reunion meeting: Talipot Theatre in The Water Carriers
Pleasance, 14-31 Aug (not Tues), 11.15pm, £7.50/£8.50 (£6.50/£7.50). Preview 13 Aug, 11.15pm, £5.
The extraordinary and bizarre Russian clowning troupe returns with another powerful and mischievous exploration of the soul.
Fire In The Basement
Traverse Theatre, 13 Aug-5 Sep (not Mons), times vary, £12 (7.50). Preview 13 Aug, 7pm, £7.50 (£4).
Gerard Mulgrew’s last show as
director of Edinburgh-based Communicado is a Scots translation of a Czech farce by Pavel Kohout, Expect Visual humour and energetic staging
Kill The Old Torture Their Young
Traverse Theatre, 12 Aug-3 Sep, times vary, £12 (£7.50). Previews 9 Aug, 7pm, £7.50 (£4); 11 Aug, 2pm, £7.50 (£4).
Long-awaited follow-up to the internationally acclaimed Knives In Hens by Glasgow-based writer David Harrower. A tragi-comedy, set in a modern Scottish city.
The Water Carriers Contintental Shifts at St Bride’s, 7-31 Aug (not Suns), 6.30pm, £7.50 (£6). Stunning physical theatre from the African island of Reunion An emotional, spiritual and absorbing performance by Talipot Theatre,
Fascinations From The
Theatre Workshop, 10—31 Aug (not Suns), 7.30pm or 9.30pm, £7 (£5). Innovative multi-media performance from FeCund Theatre, a young English company which always offers intense, involvmg material.
20 THE lIST 23 Jul—6 Aug 1998