This year marks the centenary of The Great War, and also the beginning of several years of remembrance. We can safely bet that the next few years will bring an avalanche of shows, events and speeches remembering the war that shaped the 20th century. The theatre will play its part and this show will surely be one of dozens trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
Creator Neil Walker wrote, directed and stars as a point of view character in Do We Do The Right Thing, which feels on one level like a brave and public therapy session. While the centennial frames the show, it is by no means about the war, rather it is vaguley about the effect the deaths of service men has on society, while Walker tries to come to terms with his family‘s military connection, which he has tried to distance himself from.
It was inspired by a heartfell remembrance by the town Wooton Bassett which captured the attention of the world. The show has been meticulously researched by the creator who interviewed dozens of the towns and service people. In that meticoulness is the fatal flaw of the show, for while it works as a documantation it fails as a piece of theatre.
The company deciced to perform the interviews using a technique known as Recorded Delivery, pioneered by Alecky Blythe. The technique involves the actors listening to recordings, and then delivering the lines verbatim. They never meet the people they are portraying, but try reconstructing them through the process. This technique is awful.
There is a reason only the rarest of playwrights include every ‘ummm’ and ‘ah’ in their scripts, there is a reason why public speakers spend hours preparing. Listening every day speech is difficult, especally if one is not participating in conversation. Not to mention when you add pauses as the actors listen for the next line. What is gained is realism, to the point of absurdness. Some of the characters became almost comical as actors tried to perfectly replicate people decades their senior.
The technique informed the show, overwhelmed and shadowed it . There were interesting points scattered through the show, as well as touching emotion. Unfortunetly they were buried by the style of the piece. Even the storyteller gets mired in the hesitant, struggling, underwhelming delivery. Maybe if he had provided a refreshing contrast the play would have worked, maybe.
The creator is trying to say something poignant and fresh about our relationship with the military. Unfortunetly, if you have payed attention to the anti-war sentiment in public discourse since september 2001, you will hear nothing new. The creator seems utterly amazed that serving the country has any kind of pull on young men. That bewilderment doesn‘t translate into an hour and half long show, even if the journey does end with him finding some kind solace. He fails to show how he comes to this solace, except a clever Aristotle quote tagged on at the end.
For all its flaws, it is an ambtious attempt to do something great. Many in the audience seemed moved, the production value is huge and the issues are timely. Unfortunetly it just doesn‘t add up, and its length compounds its boring drone. Style over substance, an ambitious attempt that fails. See it if you love verbatim theatre. 2/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Do We Do The Right Thing was on at the New Diorama Theatre from Monday 3rd-Tuesday 4th November. For more information about current productions at the New Diorama, visit here…