In this short from the Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Shades of Tay series, Richard Colvin conveys a broken soldier, reflecting upon the waters for a sense of solace. A Man Stands in a Forest is a poem shaped by the ebbs and flows of memory as our poetic voice is torn by an onslaught of all too recent trauma.
One of the most important messages of this poem is its exploration of silence. This is a toxic and prevalent silence. The writing follows a distinct inability to talk, and thus how silence pervades conversations of modern conflict. We seem to lose ourselves in the technicalities of overseas fighting and grow despondent in developing our own understanding of them. What Arnott forces us to reflect upon is why we struggle to discuss current events but can openly ponder on the First and Second World War with ease.
Peter Arnott seems to highlight a pervasive point regarding a generalised view of warfare as images of modern fights are cut with distant memories of the Blitz. 1940 and 2020 are swirled and compared as Arnott warps time around us. The character’s own reflections point to a society ultimately comfortable with what is historical. The poetic voice, portrayed passionately by Richard Colvin, stands by the waters completely haunted by ancient battles, all while reflecting upon his own trauma from newly made wounds.
There is a subtle, political narrative to this poem, which sparks seeds of conversation regarding the urgent, prevalent trauma unravelling lives at this very moment. Arnott asks us to let go of dispositions when conversing about the present. If we are comfortable reflecting on the Blitz as a country, why can’t we look right over our noses at the hundreds of migrants desperately thrashing their way to our shores? If we can cultivate a culture of discussion, the impact of mass-trauma when battle strikes may well be eased and processed with more clarity. Arnott begs us to learn from the past, and apply it to the present.
Let us not forget the exquisite performance delivered by Colvin. We are tousled in a sea-foam of quiet anguish. This character won’t let us enjoy the natural surroundings. We are forced to feel exactly what he feels. Arnott polarises the persistent pure descriptions of the River Tay with raw imagery of inhumane violence. The protagonist torments us his own knowledge that war is brutally manmade and the furthest thing from nature.
A Man Stands in a Forest is streaming now. For more information, visit the Pitlochry Festival Theatre website.