Home Theatre, Manchester; Thursday 12th April, 2018
In 1982, Britain and Argentina entered into a sudden and unexpected military conflict over a small island archipelago in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Despite only lasting ten weeks, the Falklands War claimed more than nine hundred lives as well as inflicting trauma on many hundreds more who survived it.
Six of those veterans have now come together to deliver Minefield – an extraordinary piece of documentary theatre which delivers the first-hand details of what went on and how it so deeply affected those who were there.
The show is constructed entirely of the stories of the six soldiers – three Argentine and three British – who are now all in their fifties and seem to be leading otherwise ordinary lives. In fact, this is one of the most incredible aspects of this show: just how normal and inconspicuous the performers seem to be. We meet a psychologist, a teacher, a lawyer, a security guard. These are ordinary men leading ordinary lives, yet each carries with them incredible stories of what happened to them as young men, more than three decades ago.
The personal histories being recounted are almost confessional in their nature: in each case a clearly mature and intelligent person is rationalising what they did, why they did it and how they feel about it. There is no bravado or macho posturing about who was right and who was wrong, instead the audience is given an entirely personal and therefore factual recollection. Most notable of these is the extraordinary story of escape from the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, arguably the most famous and decisive single military event of the conflict. Yet the man who describes so shockingly how he was cast adrift and left to die on the open ocean brings it all back down to Earth with the happier news that he now plays in a Beatles tribute band in Argentina.
Minefield is more than an oratory description of events, there are also aspects of performance theatre, with scenes involving appearances from Thatcher and Galtieri, thanks to some comical rubber masks. And the occasional use of a large-screen video presentation in the background adds a mind-bending depth, actual newspaper clippings from the time show images of the very men on stage when they happened to be captured by a newspaper photographer during the conflict.
Minefield is a first-class documentary that delivers new information in a new way. The show is fronted entirely by performers who clearly have no formal acting experience or training, yet this is more than compensated for by the incredible insight and realism that is gained through hearing a story told by the very person who was part of making it happen. A wonderfully informative and genuinely educational show.
|Visual pleasure||Delivered in the native tongue of each performer, subtitles are provided on the big screen to show an English / Spanish translation, as appropriate. Refreshing to hear the first language instead of a translation, the tone and the tempo almost acting as an accompaniment to the written words being read. Effective use of live camera close-ups on the big screen, allowed the facial expressions to be examined and acknowledged, almost verifying the accounts being given.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||Several songs were performed, each of which was powerful and poignant, setting each story into context. Amusing use of live sound effects to simulate water and explosions.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||A fascinating documentary about a subject which, as the British half of the cast pointed out during the performance, is seldom explored these days. For it to be delivered by actual veterans of the conflict (instead of by actors) added an element of tension, leaving everything poised between the realms of performance play and factual documentary.||5|
|Artistic delivery||Given that none of the performers are trained actors (though all seemed to clearly be very talented musicians) the delivery is excellent, the passion for what they speak of rises above any minor mistakes of method during the performance.||4|
|Overall impact||It’s rare for theatre to be truly educational in a world where information is available at everyone’s fingertips, but Minefield genuinely delivers new information in a new way. This is entirely about presentation method, over what is already fascinating content.||5|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|