'The Straits'

Everyman Theatre from May 18th - 22nd

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This play, set in the Rock of Gibraltar during the height of the Falklands War in 1982, is centered around four bored and disillusioned young people, who are the sons and daughters of armed forces personnel based there.

Full of earthy languages throughout, the dialogue grates at times with constant references to overt racism - the Spanish are constantly referred to as 'spics' - mindless jingoism - the British are described as being the best fighters in the world whether at war or not - cheap sex, and basically the frustrations of the four characters who have little respect for themselves or anyone else.

Despite the limited scope of the story - I was none the wiser at the end about issues related to why we went to war to that desolate island in the South Atlantic - the acting, particularly by the hard boy Doink (James Marchant), is quite convincing.

Doink has a brother on the ill-fated HMS Sheffield, and repeatedly extols the virtues of the Royal Marines and why he is going to join them.
To pass the time in the sweltering heat, he goes hunting for octopus in the waters surrounding the rock with his best friend Jock (Freddy White), and also teams up with Darren (Peter McNicholl) and his sister Tracy (Alice O'Connell).
The four bicker among themselves all the time, complaining about this, moaning about that. It prevents you having any sort of empathy with any of them.

Remarkably during the 90 minute span of the play, a Pains Plough production, there is never any mention of Margaret Thatcher, who was regarded as the devil incarnate by the Argentine people at the time of the conflict.
'The Straits' is performed, with very few props, on a stage the shape of a cross - I failed to understand the symbolism of this.

One highlight is the use of 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols, with the song being sung again at the very end of the play by a young child, without any musical accompaniment. The song had and still has relevance to the often barren political landscape in Britain.

But otherwise it proved to be a dour experience at the Everyman, with little to uplift the human spirit.