Reviews

Cockpit Review by Ella Higgins

I​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​rethink​ ​everything​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​about​ ​Bridget​ ​Boland’s​ ​play​ ​the​ ​minute​ ​I​ ​entered the​ ​Lyceum.​ ​The​ ​experience​ ​didn’t​ ​start​ ​from​ ​when​ ​the​ ​house​ ​lights​ ​dimmed,​ ​it​ ​started​ ​from when​ ​I​ ​set​ ​foot​ ​in​ ​the​ ​building.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​oil​ ​lamps​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor,​ ​makeshift​ ​shelters​ ​set​ ​up​ ​on the​ ​stairs​ ​and​ ​tarpaulin​ ​hanging​ ​from​ ​any​ ​available​ ​surface.​ ​Tattered​ ​pieces​ ​of​ ​fabric​ ​were pinned​ ​to​ ​the​ ​walls;​ ​covering​ ​signs​ ​and​ ​declaring​ ​the​ ​theatre​ ​to​ ​be​ ​“under​ ​the​ ​control​ ​of​ ​the allied​ ​forces”​ ​in​ ​bold​ ​lettering​ ​and​ ​black​ ​paint.
The​ ​auditorium​ ​was​ ​almost​ ​unrecognisable​ ​-​ ​the​ ​stage​ ​had​ ​been​ ​stripped​ ​and​ ​reorganised,​ ​with rows​ ​of​ ​seats​ ​for​ ​the​ ​audience​ ​lined​ ​up​ ​at​ ​the​ ​back​ ​of​ ​the​ ​stage​ ​where​ ​the​ ​curtains​ ​had​ ​once been.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​more​ ​fabrics​ ​hanging​ ​from​ ​the​ ​stalls​ ​and​ ​the​ ​exposed​ ​lighting​ ​bridge,​ ​and ladders​ ​connecting​ ​the​ ​staging​ ​to​ ​the​ ​gallery​ ​and​ ​balconies.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​organised​ ​chaos.​ ​As​ ​for​ ​the actors,​ ​their​ ​performance​ ​started​ ​whilst​ ​we​ ​were​ ​piling​ ​in​ ​-​ ​they​ ​were​ ​milling​ ​around​ ​both​ ​the stage​ ​and​ ​the​ ​seating​ ​area,​ ​shouting​ ​to​ ​each​ ​other​ ​in​ ​an​ ​array​ ​of​ ​languages​ ​and​ ​scrambling​ ​up and​ ​down​ ​the​ ​ladders.​ ​This​ ​wasn’t​ ​just​ ​a​ ​performance​ ​of​ ​what​ ​life​ ​was​ ​like​ ​in​ ​a​ ​transit​ ​camp​ ​after the​ ​war,​ ​this​ ​​was ​​ a​ ​transit​ ​camp;​ ​a​ ​theatre​ ​seized​ ​by​ ​the​ ​allied​ ​forces​ ​to​ ​store​ ​refugees​ ​from​ ​the war​ ​so​ ​they​ ​could​ ​be​ ​sent​ ​home​ ​-​ ​and​ ​we​ ​were​ ​part​ ​of​ ​it​ ​all.

The​ ​performance​ ​itself​ ​was​ ​a​ ​poignant​ ​re-enactment​ ​of​ ​the​ ​frustration​ ​and​ ​the​ ​struggle​ ​of post-war​ ​life.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​accurate​ ​to​ ​a​ ​fault,​ ​which​ ​benefited​ ​the​ ​play​ ​hugely​ ​but​ ​also​ ​held​ ​it​ ​back​ ​at points.​ ​Every​ ​individual​ ​had​ ​their​ ​own​ ​story​ ​and​ ​their​ ​own​ ​fears.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​a​ ​theme​ ​of​ ​complex paranoia​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​performance,​ ​which​ ​was​ ​such​ ​a​ ​large​ ​part​ ​of​ ​post-war​ ​life;​ ​something I’d​ ​never​ ​stopped​ ​to​ ​think​ ​about​ ​before.​ ​The​ ​constant​ ​distrust​ ​and​ ​argument​ ​is​ ​the​ ​foundation​ ​of the​ ​plot;​ ​the​ ​Second​ ​World​ ​War​ ​had​ ​forced​ ​entire​ ​countries​ ​to​ ​betray​ ​and​ ​invade​ ​others,​ ​which resulted​ ​in​ ​spirals​ ​of​ ​anger​ ​and​ ​fear.​ ​This​ ​performance​ ​made​ ​me​ ​realise​ ​that​ ​I,​ ​like​ ​many​ ​others, had​ ​never​ ​given​ ​much​ ​thought​ ​to​ ​the​ ​aftermath​ ​of​ ​the​ ​war.​ ​Just​ ​because​ ​the​ ​war​ ​had​ ​ended,​ ​it didn’t​ ​mean​ ​that​ ​everyone​ ​affected​ ​was​ ​able​ ​to​ ​go​ ​back​ ​to​ ​their​ ​original​ ​lives.​ ​Boland​ ​highlighted the​ ​struggle​ ​of​ ​people​ ​who​ ​had​ ​already​ ​suffered​ ​so​ ​much​ ​trauma​ ​over​ ​the​ ​previous​ ​years: people​ ​who​ ​had​ ​lost​ ​their​ ​family,​ ​their​ ​friends​ ​and​ ​their​ ​homes​ ​from​ ​countries​ ​worldwide,​ ​were stuck​ ​in​ ​a​ ​German​ ​theatre​ ​-​ ​seized​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Brits​ ​and​ ​turned​ ​into​ ​a​ ​transit​ ​camp.​ ​The​ ​war​ ​was over,​ ​but​ ​public​ ​attitudes​ ​remained​ ​-​ ​people​ ​still​ ​harboured​ ​hatred​ ​towards​ ​their​ ​“former” enemies.​ ​The​ ​tension​ ​was​ ​always​ ​crawling​ ​around​ ​the​ ​stage,​ ​making​ ​an​ ​obvious​ ​appearance when​ ​there​ ​was​ ​conflict,​ ​and​ ​hiding​ ​in​ ​the​ ​shadows​ ​when​ ​the​ ​conflicts​ ​were​ ​“resolved”​ ​-​ ​I​ ​use the​ ​phrase​ ​loosely​ ​since​ ​the​ ​performance​ ​highlights​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that,​ ​in​ ​a​ ​similar​ ​fashion​ ​to​ ​the​ ​war, just​ ​because​ ​men​ ​in​ ​uniform​ ​say​ ​an​ ​issue​ ​is​ ​resolved,​ ​it​ ​doesn’t​ ​mean​ ​the​ ​problem,​ ​the​ ​anger and​ ​the​ ​fear​ ​goes​ ​away.
As​ ​mentioned​ ​earlier,​ ​the​ ​accuracy​ ​of​ ​the​ ​performance​ ​had​ ​pros​ ​and​ ​cons;​ ​although​ ​it​ ​was fascinating​ ​and​ ​entertaining,​ ​at​ ​certain​ ​points​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​my​ ​mind​ ​wander,​ ​and​ ​at​ ​others​ ​I​ ​was​ ​quite confused.​ ​I​ ​do​ ​not​ ​mean​ ​for​ ​this​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​criticism​ ​of​ ​the​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​the​ ​performance​ ​or​ ​the​ ​script, quite​ ​the​ ​opposite​ ​in​ ​fact.​ ​I​ ​realised​ ​during​ ​the​ ​second​ ​half​ ​of​ ​the​ ​performance​ ​that,​ ​maybe​ ​I​ ​was supposed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​confused?​ ​Maybe​ ​I​ ​was​ ​supposed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​slightly​ ​tired?​ ​The​ ​script​ ​is​ ​a​ ​complex thing,​ ​with​ ​many​ ​layers​ ​to​ ​it,​ ​and​ ​it​ ​was​ ​clear​ ​that​ ​they​ ​had​ ​put​ ​in​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​submerge​ ​the audience​ ​in​ ​the​ ​performance​ ​-​ ​but​ ​maybe​ ​they​ ​put​ ​in​ ​even​ ​more​ ​effort​ ​than​ ​I​ ​first​ ​realised?​ ​In​ ​my opinion,​ ​the​ ​aim​ ​of​ ​the​ ​performance​ ​was​ ​to​ ​show​ ​exactly​ ​what​ ​it​ ​was​ ​like​ ​to​ ​be​ ​stuck​ ​in​ ​a​ ​transit camp,​ ​and​ ​they​ ​didn’t​ ​miss​ ​anything​ ​out.​ ​The​ ​war​ ​had​ ​ended,​ ​but​ ​the​ ​world​ ​had​ ​yet​ ​to​ ​clean itself​ ​up;​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​wide​ ​range​ ​of​ ​nationalities​ ​stuck​ ​in​ ​this​ ​transit​ ​camp,​ ​and​ ​many​ ​of​ ​them had​ ​something​ ​against​ ​other​ ​nationalities​ ​-​ ​which​ ​was​ ​understandable.​ ​However,​ ​the​ ​excessive arguments​ ​and​ ​complaints​ ​to​ ​the​ ​sergeant​ ​during​ ​the​ ​already​ ​extensive​ ​organisation​ ​planning left​ ​me​ ​feeling​ ​somewhat​ ​bored.​ ​And​ ​rightly​ ​so.​ ​Transit​ ​camps​ ​weren’t​ ​fun​ ​places​ ​to​ ​be​ ​-​ ​they weren’t​ ​exciting.​ ​There​ ​would’ve​ ​been​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​organising​ ​and​ ​being​ ​organised,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​general distrust​ ​would’ve​ ​led​ ​to​ ​complaints​ ​from​ ​every​ ​direction.

​ ​The​ ​distrust​ ​was​ ​complicated​ ​-​ ​my​ ​confusion​ ​stemmed​ ​from​ ​it​ ​-​ ​because​ ​people​ ​would’ve​ ​been scared​ ​for​ ​lots​ ​of​ ​different​ ​reasons.​ ​The​ ​war​ ​created​ ​complex​ ​relationships​ ​between​ ​countries, and​ ​that​ ​led​ ​to​ ​complex​ ​fears.​ ​At​ ​certain​ ​points,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​lost​ ​as​ ​to​ ​why​ ​these​ ​people​ ​were​ ​so scared​ ​and​ ​so​ ​angry,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​think​ ​they​ ​were​ ​too.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​too​ ​many​ ​differing​ ​opinions,​ ​which was​ ​proven​ ​to​ ​have​ ​lethal​ ​consequences​ ​in​ ​the​ ​form​ ​of​ ​the​ ​War,​ ​and​ ​so​ ​it​ ​was​ ​easiest​ ​for​ ​many to​ ​trust​ ​nobody​ ​than​ ​to​ ​risk​ ​their​ ​own​ ​lives,​ ​especially​ ​when​ ​they​ ​were​ ​so​ ​close​ ​to​ ​freedom.​ ​In this​ ​performance,​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​follow​ ​all​ ​the​ ​arguments​ ​and​ ​my​ ​mind​ ​would​ ​wander​ ​away​ ​from​ ​what was​ ​happening​ ​onstage,​ ​however,​ ​once​ ​I​ ​was​ ​home​ ​I​ ​found​ ​my​ ​mind​ ​continuously​ ​wandering back​ ​to​ ​it​ ​all.

This​ ​performance​ ​was​ ​emotional,​ ​educational,​ ​thought​ ​provoking​ ​and​ ​made​ ​very​ ​interesting​ ​and relevant​ ​points​ ​about​ ​single-minded​ ​belief​ ​and​ ​its​ ​dangers.​ ​The​ ​complexities​ ​of​ ​the​ ​script must’ve​ ​been​ ​challenging​ ​to​ ​work​ ​with,​ ​and​ ​a​ ​struggle​ ​to​ ​turn​ ​into​ ​an​ ​engaging​ ​performance. However​ ​it​ ​was​ ​beautifully​ ​executed,​ ​and​ ​left​ ​you​ ​thinking​ ​about​ ​it​ ​for​ ​days​ ​after.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​unique and​ ​sobering,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​am​ ​glad​ ​that​ ​the​ ​struggles​ ​presented​ ​by​ ​the​ ​war​ ​and​ ​its​ ​aftermath​ ​have been​ ​condensed​ ​into​ ​a​ ​wholly​ ​enjoyable​ ​performance,​ ​which​ ​will​ ​remind​ ​us​ ​of​ ​our​ ​history​ ​for years​ ​to​ ​come.