Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Boy Jack (2014):
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.
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
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
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
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.