John is the wireless operator in an improbably “successful” Lancaster bomber crew during World War II. They have survived more than thirty tours of duty, far surpassing their, and every other, bomber crew’s, expected lifespan of just ten tours.
We join John in his cramped, isolated station, as his crew make what they have been promised will be their last raid. There might just be light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel; all they have to do is survive.
Not just their bodies, but their minds also.
The night will be long, and full of very real terrors. John will confront his mortality, and his morality in the course of this gripping, moving piece, based on the true story of director, and co-writer, Bob Baldwin’s father.
The central performance, by upcoming stage star, Thomas Dennis, is nothing short of masterful. He draws an audience in with a delicately shaded performance, moving fluently through animal fear, existential torment, and impossibly distant dreams of domestic normality.
The writing is strong, and manages the fine line between interesting drama, and also getting out of the way of the gripping truth being brought to life. Bob, and fellow scribe, Max Kinnings, are both to be congratulated. There’s clear professionalism in every aspect of this show. The stage and prop design is exceptional, and creates precisely the claustrophobic environment demanded. Sound is used to marvellous effect, immersing us in a terrifying soundscape, and creating eight other crew-men – unseen, yet very real.
During action scenes, it occasionally becomes a little tricky to know precisely what is transpiring. A loud bang, amongst others, may, or may not signal catastrophe. No doubt this is not unlike genuine warfare, but these do present little opportunities for a watching mind to disengage.
I guarantee any audience member an emotionally exhausting, and thoroughly absorbing hour of wartime drama, and excoriating introspection. The focus on the mental health of the wireless operator which dominates the piece is particularly welcome. Victims of war, we are reminded, come in many terrible guises, and some casualties bare their wounds on the inside.
You can catch Wireless Operator at the Pleasance Courtyard – Pleasance Below from 11th – 12th and 13th – 26th August, at 12:40. Tickets and more information can be found here.
“Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise” – Les Misérables
We are living in a difficult time, but it will pass, and I look forward to enjoying the theatre with you when it does. Stay safe, and remember to sing La Vie Bohème to yourself every time you wash your hands. Start to finish, please.