What I Just Shot - Review

As TV viewers we are bombarded with images of war but rarely do we get to see the effect it has on those who are caught up in the conflict. Helen Nelder's play seeks to remedy that omission.

The action takes place in and around a humanitarian aid camp and tells the story of John, a war photographer suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and his relationship with Beth, the camp's director. It explores their emotions whilst depicting the horrific conditions that they work under and the effect war has on them, their colleagues and the local population. In addition it takes a hefty swipe at the cynicism of the media.

This remarkable play is a collaboration between author and cast. What has evolved through improvisation is a powerful and moving work that takes the audience into a cleverly created simulation of a war zone and at the end left the audience in a state of stunned silence.

As to the production itself due recognition must be given to the technical team for the large part they played in the play's success. The realistic sound effects of bombardments were truly chilling and clever use was made of a large screen that doubled as an information board for the audience and a TV screen on which live video images were shown of the journalists' reports and interviews.

The production contained some particularly inventive touches like the balletic, trance-like mimes that opened each act and the house created by the cast that is ritualistically destroyed, its occupants murdered and raped.

As ever the standard of acting from the entire cast was extremely high. The opening courtship exchanges between John & Beth were sensitively realised by Jim Polkey-Calderwood and Red Gray. They conveyed a tenderness that conveyed beautifully the shyness and embarrassment of an instant attraction. It was unfortunate that at times Red's sensitive portrayal was marred by a too soft and too naturalistic delivery when words were lost.

Jane Austin, as Amanda, the camp's doctor, gave a powerful and angry monologue that spat out statistics to slap down a glib remark from a journalist. A haunting image that still remains is the harrowing monologue by the frail Mary, a rape victim, who is shown photographs of murdered fellow villages by a ruthless reporter. It was delivered with an astonishing force by Jade Weighell.

On the negative side it was felt that the play was a wee bit long and could have benefited from some pruning. Also there were when times a scene needed a little more clarification. For example it was not clear to me the reason for Darko's treachery in leading the journalists into a trap.

Barrie Jerram
16 November 2004