Thursday, 7 July 2022

REVIEW: 9 Circles at Park Theatre 90

We assume that wars are fought to protect a civilised and peaceful existence; unfettered by those who seek to destroy the lives we choose to live; but what about the men and women who are trained to achieve this objective. Do they understand who and what they are fighting for? Do they obey the command of their masters and assume morality is on their side? But are they simply state-trained killers indoctrinated by the preferred narrative. What really is the effect on soldiers who are programmed to kill the enemy? This intriguing play by Bill Cain explores these themes in forensic detail and delivers more than a hint of inconvenient truth.

The story begins in Iraq as soldier Daniel E. Reeves (Joshua Collins) is about to receive an honourable discharge. He verbally spars with his Lieutenant (Daniel Bowerbank) at the real meaning and both settle on a personality disorder. He later wakes up in a cell back in the US. The Public Defender (Samara Neely-Cohen) informs him of charges relating to his conduct in Iraq. Reeves falls deep into a mind fog as he tries to make sense of what has happened. The Defence Attorney (David Calvitto) is convinced he can get an acquittal if only he plays ball.

9 Circles is a harrowing but totally compulsive study of the human condition and fragility of mental health in combat conditions. Upstairs at the Park Theatre is a tight and claustrophobic space perfectly suited to the play's mood. A circular stage lit above with a smaller beam heightens the tension as each stage of the narrative approaches. A superlative cast all sweat to make the characters work within the plot, but Joshua Collins is outstanding as the damaged Daniel Reeves. He remains on stage for the entire 90 minutes of the play and easily handles a character heavily laden with dialogue. Joshua is word perfect with well-judged mannerisms that make the character truly authentic.

We all have a clear notion of the wars that are justified and those driven by open hostility. But members of the armed forces have no choice in the wars they fight. The psychological wear and tear are thankfully recognised as a debilitating condition. It inevitably involves a loss of one's own goodness and humanity; that in itself is a shocking realisation. A powerful tale told with a great deal of emotional intelligence. 

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unallocated seating | Price of Ticket: £12/£15

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