An apparent sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Michael (Gary Quinn) is a casualty of the British armed forces. He suffers frequent flashbacks of his previous tours in Afghanistan, of his buddy Sean and of not being able to fit back into his home that is untouched by the ravages of the war.
Quinn both writes and stars in this gritty one-man depiction of the war’s effect on the living as well as on the dead. Michael is angry, confused and in the end deeply descended into the throws of insanity. He puts on a front to his comrades and to the new recruits, but the toll and pressure of army life seems to slowly strip him of his personality and leave him a shell. Quinn’s writing is well researched, but its translation to the stage is ineffective as a one-man show. The character of Michael and his journey is often lost when Quinn flits between characters on both sides of an exchange. This has to be done quickly to keep the dialogue flowing but is ultimately distracting; sometimes Quinn mumbles the line and at others he moves on too quickly to let the character sink in. Michael’s mother is a great example of this. She is obviously an important influence on his life, but because Quinn is dashing between playing the mother and playing the teenage protagonist we miss key information and don’t engage as critically.
Not all characters are lost in translation – the interactions between Michael and army buddy Sean are well delivered. Sean’s accent is at times a bit muddled (he seems to be mainly Irish with some American heritage thrown in). But as Quinn moves around the set he switches between characters, which clarifies the dialogue and makes it easier to compartmentalise each personality. “Why do you fight? For your mates, for your buddy.” The bond that these two share is both apparent and believable when portrayed by a single actor, up until the poignant death scene. It would be more effective to have two performers here so that Quinn can use the silence between lines as further emotional emphasis. But after this scene, having one actor makes it easier for Quinn to mimic Sean’s personality in Michael’s actions, keeping his buddy alive in memory and in the patter he delivers to new members of the squad.
The sacrifices a soldier makes for his country is clearly communicated. The reasoning behind it does too; “I’m a soldier. That’s what I do. I protect people”. Yet the overarching theme is Michael’s failure to realise that in working to protect others, he has sacrificed something of himself.
The Last Kill played Greenside @ Nicolson Square (venue 209) until August 29 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, see the Fringe website.