Human Cannon

Written by Edward Bond
Directed by Bill Hopkinson
Walk the Plank, Albert Dock (13th and 16th December 2008)

Reviewed by Alfonso Barata

Human Cannon is the first piece of a trilogy that under the general title ‘Acts of terror’ looks at different historical events where violence and conflict had a major role in the twentieth century, and how the conflict between individual and state shaped the past century.

The Spanish Civil War, the Communist period in Romania and other similar key historical events are all explored in these plays that are presented by final year performance students from Edge Hill University. What is also interesting about this programme is its setting; I have been to theatre performances in conventional sites such as theatres, others less so such as social centres or the streets, but I had never been to a play performed in a ship.

Walk the Plank is a theatre ship moored in the Albert Dock that hosts a range of events; this makes it a unique and different venue but with the drawback of being of difficult access to people with mobility issues.

Human Cannon is set in Spain at the time of the 1936-39 Civil War, and it explores this historical event that for many became a romantic war; the last act of international solidarity in defence of a universal cause.

Rather than concentrating on the grand events that shaped and defined the outcome of the Civil War, the play looks at how ordinary people lived these events and how people react when confronted with difficult and extreme situations at times when the security and even the life of the people we love is at stake. The play presents uncomfortable questions about the violence deployed by people on both sides during the war; about its validity and moral justification.

The cast bring to life a large number of characters, including the women of a village, those in the Republican side and the Fascists; most actors play different roles, some of them even giving life to three different characters.

The play mostly succeeds in its aim of exploring/explaining the human side of a war, a war of the past that did have a crucial importance in future armed conflicts, and how people live these events. What it lacks, however, is a sustained dramatic tension to grip the audience for the two hours that the show lasts.

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