Scorched, Zoo Southside, Review
For one Second World War veteran the launch of Operation Desert Storm is about to unleash a whirlwind of memories.
Pilots speak on the television, reporting the high-tech missile strikes that have lit up Baghdad as he folds a paper-airplane. There will be no war of attrition between the massed armies in the sands of the desert.
Sand spills from his tea-cup as he, Jack, takes a few shuffling steps and is back there, 1941 at the head of a clanking armoured division near Tobruk. The enemy aircraft sits on the desert floor but the pilot has escaped, he will need to be hunted down.
Jack also finds himself lost in a desert between shifting memories and forgetfulness. The sands of time run through his fingers as he recalls his childhood, going with his father to country fares with their bare-knuckle boxing. It’s made a lasting impact - there’s truth in it; the sweat, the blood. No lies, no pretending. A touchstone for his life like the service revolver that is always by his side. And the basis for his mantra, “shy bairns get nowt”. He is a man who can’t abide weakness.
Some pain you can’t grit your teeth against and release is found in fighting, women and drinking with a purpose. There are however moments of gentleness in his life. There is no pretence in the bare skin of the Muslim girl whose image he has tattooed on his own.
In ever changing episodes we learn more of Jack’s childhood, his former glories, family and, central to everything, the burning hell of war in the desert.
This cleverly written script paints a vivid portrait of a man, while looking at wider issues of “manliness”, war and fading memory. There are only a few little diversions along the way that feel less clear or necessary. It’s beautifully told using a mix of physical theatre, projection and sound, all bound up in a set where sand is everywhere, sweeping from the past to the present. A superb performance allows Jack to move elegantly between his hard and feisty youth and his wilderness years.
By turns shifting, gritty, soft and searing, it is one of the most complete theatrical experiences at this year’s Fringe.
Show Times: 5 - 29 Aug (not 15, 22) at 3.30pm.
Tickets: £7 to £9.