[2013003] Glory Dazed

[2013003] Glory Dazed [FringeTIX]

Second Shot Productions @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:30pm, Wed 13 Feb 2013

Returning to The Studio a mere half-hour after Angry Young Man finished, it was interesting to see the change in scenery: where the previous performance had just used the empty space with no backdrops whatsoever, the Glory Dazed crew had inserted the interior of an English pub into the space. And the play starts with a jolt: the lights snap on, revealing three characters fearfully watching the door to the pub; there’s a tangible sense of terror in their eyes as they hold the pose for tense moments.

They quietly confer amongst themselves – is He gone? – but their questions are answered by a violent banging on the door. The source of their fear is Ray, a British soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan; his ex-wife Carla, her current beau (and Ray’s former best friend and workmate) Simon, and young barmaid Leanne are trapped inside the pub. Ray’s trying to find Carla – he’s got something important to tell her, he says – but she is adamant she doesn’t want to see him; physical abuse is implied and confirmed, but the emotional abuse is the focus of this play.

There’s tension aplenty as Ray manipulates his way inside the pub; he’s covered in blood, and is in Big Trouble, with the occasional passing police siren raising his hackles. And then the emotional battles begin: Ray attempts to convince Carla to leave dingy Donnington with him and their kids to go to Brighton, ostensibly to escape the police… but also for a New Start. But he also brazenly flirts with Leanne, introducing her to The Game in an effort to get her drunk, and the slight prickle between he and Simon comes to a head when it’s revealed that Simon and Carla are now dating. Most of the critical exchanges are two-handers, with the less-used characters drifting into the background; as the play tumbles towards its conclusion, there’s a lot of pain on display as words are used as bullets.

Glory Dazed lives and dies on the portrayal of Ray by Samuel Edward-Cook – and he provides a perfect portrayal of a shattered vodka-swilling hard-man, physically dominating the stage and snapping between the fractured elements of his broken psyche. When he roars, he’s genuinely intimidating; when he emotionally cowers, he comes across as fragile, brittle. But the transitions between those states are almost too sudden; sure, the script is trying to portray the nature of a PTSD-affected serviceman, but the result feels… exaggerated. Too big.

And these transitions end up making the performance feel two-paced; loud shouty soliloquies separated by quieter moments of almost desperate, struggling tenderness. And that would be great… if the tender moments didn’t contrast so markedly: it’s almost as if they don’t seem to fit.

But the biggest problem I had with Glory Dazed is that none of the characters are likeable – Ray constantly jars when switching from brute to pissed-giggler, Carla’s flip-flopping from restraining-order to consoling-partner irks, and Simon just feels like a weedy runt for most of the performance. But Leanne… oh, Leanne. Used as either comic relief or a battering ram for most of the performance, she delivers the moment in the last ten seconds of the play… a glance. Just a sideways look. But that look was so full of fear and cowering respect and… wow. It was just amazing; if one look alone could win a best acting gong, Kristin Atherton would win hands down.

Despite its well-meaning political inclinations, Glory Dazed had my mind grumbling for much of the performance. Yes, I know PTSD is a serious issue… but maybe that was at the heart of my problem with the show: the fact that I know that PTSD is out there, affecting the lives of thousands of people and families. Maybe I’m not the target audience; maybe other people are fine with the delivery that borders on blunt and episodic. But then I think back to That Look, and how that caused me to well up with tears almost instantly… and all else is forgotten.

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