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The Play That Killed Me

by playthatkillme 

Posted: 27 May 2011
Word Count: 334
Summary: Led by award-winning film-maker and writer Justin MacGregor, Come As You Arts North West bring the world première of The Play That Killed Me to The Lowry. Inspired by the writer’s grandfather, it tells the story of two actors, Hector and Charles, who are busy putting on plays for the troops in Africa during World War II. With morale at a dangerous low, they decide to put one on at the front to help rouse the troops despite promises to their wives they would not do anything foolhardy.

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An actor’s war, related as a tribute by his grandson, throws a different light on giving one’s life for one’s country.
Hector MacGregor’s contribution was producing plays, supposedly to raise the troops’ morale, although ironically when Montgomery summoned him to the front his task was to put on RC Sherriff’s classic anti-war play Journey’s End.

It’s an interesting story from a theatrical family – Hector helped to found Windsor Rep and even appeared in Hitchcock’s Stage Fright. Writer-director Justin MacGregor, Hector’s grandson, makes his tribute quite touching in the simplicity of the telling. But he sacrifices real emotion, drama and action.

He chooses to have Hector, portrayed in a matter-of-fact (and initially barely audible) way by Gerry McLaughlin, tell his own life story, with significant episodes before, during and after the war played out in a series of brief perfunctory scenes. It’s not so much a play as a 70-minute illustrated talk and so episodic that there isn’t time to build tensions or develop characters. And we don’t get to see the plays within a play.

The result, despite his love for Peg and their son, is all rather uninvolving, even though it illustrates through one man the sacrifices made by many for their country. He paid the ultimate price by catching a fatal disease in the desert campaign, hence the title.

The staging is so minimalistic that even the simple prop of a map, which Hector uses to point out the region of north Africa where he served, is indecipherable to the audience.

It’s a worthy but disappointing start to the Lowry‘s new studio season, entitled Never Been Seen (and, hopefully, not never to be seen again). But I admire Justin for honouring his grandad.

The work the Lowry is doing with fresh regional talent, starting with this new work from Come As You Are North West, itself dedicated to working with the best creative artists, is encouraging. The Studio season offers a dozen productions and development works in the next month alone.

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Comments by other Members

YeOldeMariner at 19:40 on 28 July 2011  Report this post
It's not clear what this is in my opinion.A brief synopsis?Treatment?

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