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The Lonely Clouds of Guernica

By Justin MacGregor

Come As You Arts North West

The Lowry, 10 November 2011

The title is an unlikely conflation of Wordsworth and Picasso, the play itself a moving meditation on the costs of war.

David Crowley plays Ben, a soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and it is his story that is told.  In the main, it’s a story of sacrifice, expiation and renewal.

What impresses most about this play especially – though it’s true also of the triliogy taken as a whole – is its ambition.  It is allusive, rich with meaning, and its complex, multilayered narrative uses all the space on the stage.  MacGregor makes demands on the audience, but any and all effort is rewarded.  Both Wordsworth and Picasso make an appearance, as does another famous or infamous personage, who’s finally unmasked (or ‘unburkaed’) at the end.  There’s humour here too, as for example in the droll recital of the side effects of anti-PTSD drugs by a certain Dr. Phizer (Peter Hunt).  Of the many fine performances, Anthony Quinlan’s was the pick for me.  He played George, a private writing home.

This is a very different play to, say, either Motherland by Steve Gilroy or Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, two plays that also dealt with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as them.  It’s that good.

The Lonely Clouds of Guernica is at The Lowry until 12 November, details here.