'Pink Mist': Review

"An engrossingly convincing study of war and grief.” (★★★★ Her Campus Bristol )

Owen Sheer’s Pink Mist is inspirited in this highly professional and fluent production from the Drama Society, themes of masculinity and loss are explored with strength and restraint. Sheers’ verse play diversifies the stereotypes of young hardened privates, and frail elderly men by exploring, with express intimacy, the voices of young veterans. Based on over thirty interviews with returning soldiers, Sheers is persuasively well versed in his subject. Complimented by the synthesis of a minimalist soundscape and brutalist set design, a new generation is empowered with a contextualised and convincing narrative of modern war with this production.

Immediately we are lulled into both the familiar and distant, with the recognisable and well pitched Bristol accent and place names as well as the foreign call: “Who wants to play war?”. Taff (Tullio Campanale), Hads (Jacob Grunberger) and Arthur (Alex Jenn), execute the picture of a young man, awakened from an acceptance of normality brilliantly. In conjunction with their loved ones, (Laura Marcus, Sophie Graham and Maddie Coombe) the recognition of the hubris of being part of something bigger is communicated with subtlety and the presentation of a seductive army is poignantly well founded in these performances.

Unfortunately, the initial dialogue felt occasionally over-shadowed by movement, although this was still outstandingly agile. After a potential hiccup in opening technicalities, characterisation and plot was undoubtedly yet to peak. Equally, the secondary role of women throughout the script was marked, but arguably not unreflective of the serving forces’ composition.

However what lacked in the first half was more than compensated by the emotional crescendo of the second half. Sheers’ poeticism is beautifully justified by the actors, notably “King Arthur” (Alex Jenn), who carried the heavy majority of dialogue in the first half. In partnership with Maddie Coombe, playing Arthur’s girlfriend Gwen, the two actors provide an arresting vignette of the despairing deaths of young soldiers. At this moment direction is particularly effective: Will Bryant’s reposeful yet melancholic sound design is moving; and Liv Pocket’s choreography, strikingly exposes the couple’s vulnerability, manipulating space and the use of slow embrace stunningly. These elements collaborate to achieve a pacifism, where once again, the tragic destiny of the characters means the tension and discomfort of the audience is palpable. Here, Alex Jenn’s delivery is simple and sobering after the chaotic simulation of PTSD, an electric sensory experience. The stillness Arthur (Alex Jenn) commands of the audience, is astonishing.

The atmosphere that was curated within the theatre, visibly continued to linger amongst those leaving. Considering current conversation around masculinity and mental health, this is a performance that has to be seen, and a play that deserves a significant future voice.