Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.

My Boy Jack (2014):
Complex emotions over the death of a son form the basis of this extraordinary play. The fact that it's based on real-life tragedy that beset the celebrated author and poet Rudyard Kipling adds both poignancy and intensity.

It also makes for a harrowing theatrical experience. Harrowing but totally riveting when handled with such fine sensitivity as achieved here by director Christine Carpenter. It is a production of all-round stunning commitment with a stand-out leading characterisation surrounded by a clutch of other superb performances.

To depict the restless, contrary and haunted persona of Kipling himself, Dave Crossfield takes on a mighty challenge. He has to convey a man of patriotic fervour, an imperialist of the old school, a figure of great nationalistic pride and the inwardly loving head of an influential upper-class family. He does so with a skill and insight which are staggeringly good.

The play, written by actor David Haig, demands exploration of every aspect of Kipling's personality. There is his statesman-like belief that no sacrifice is too great so long as the day is won. We see his affectionate star-gazing romp in a tent with his two children. We witness his haunted self-doubting after having persuaded and cleared the path for his unfit son to join the Irish Guards at the outbreak of the Great War.

And we watch with immeasurable sadness as he vainly tries to convince his wife and himself of the correctness of his actions.

All this is beautifully achieved by the central portrayal and those of the family around him - Julie Godfrey's initially restrained American wife later detonated by events, Isabella Nash as the daughter who has to weather the domestic storm, and George Heynes as the touching and ill-fated son.

Add to these a remarkable tour-de-force by Henri West as a nerve-shattered Irish soldier in a later sequence which, though too long as written, is still a moving and provocative piece of theatre, and designs by Brian Tuck which take in a breathtaking trench warfare section.

The overall result is an ultimate powerhouse production.



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