By Anna Jordan
Directed by Neil Bettles
16th – 20th October 2018
Reviewed by Jennifer Walker
The Unreturning tells the story of three soldiers returning home from war. From the yearning for home whilst away, to the realities of home when they return. From the hero welcomes to the shame of being a representation of something most cannot comprehend.
The story is told through three soldiers, all returning home to Scarborough, but through different times after different wars. George, played by Jared Garfield, is returning home from the first world war in 1918. He returns to a wife expecting a hero, who is totally unprepared for the shell of a man he has become. George is tortured by the men he lost and the sights he witnessed. Shell shocked, he finds himself at odds with his wife Rose, who is eager to put the war behind them and move on.
Frankie, played by Joe Layton, is coming home from the war in Afghanistan in 2008, dishonorably discharged with a court case pending. He finds himself on the front cover of the newspapers, bringing shame to his family, who now find him an inconvenience that they must distance themselves from.
Nat, played by Jonnie Riordan, is a refugee heading back home to England in 2026 after a civil war led him to leave earlier, a broken man who has done what he had to survive in a very high tech world. He finds himself racked with guilt as he returns by boat to try to track down the brother he left behind.
The whole play was deeply poignant. Garfield played the shell-shocked vet George faultlessly, his tortured existence in a world that hasn’t allowed for him to return a different man was stunning.
Equally, Layton, playing Frankie, was flawless. He portrayed the masculinity and the rage bottled up inside Frankie brilliantly.
Riordan was slightly left behind with the other two stealing the show. However Riordan was perhaps the most thought provoking, leaving the audience imagining a dystopian future that could possibly be ours.
Overall a remarkable play, entertaining and smartly put together, with the ingenious use of a container and lights to transport the audience to the horror the soldiers had witnessed, before bringing their stories to the stage as they returned home.