17 November 2010

Guest Review: Foxholes of the Mind

Foxholes of the Mind
Larrikin Ensemble
La Mama Courthouse Theatre
10 November 2010 


Review by Karla Dondio


Foxholes in the Mind is a heart-wrenching account of the loss suffered by men and women who return home from war and the families they return home to. 

The setting is present day where Frank (Peter Finlay), a Vietnam War veteran, is struggling to keep his marriage to the long-suffering Trish (Joanne Davis) together. What’s clear from the outset is that Frank’s drinking and outbursts have marred family life leading to everyone being estranged from him. Frank starts a therapy group for veterans and nurses suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, as the characters unravel, we see to the tragic extent to which war scars those that serve.

While watching this play, it struck me that what men and women lose at war is an innocence and morality that propels most of us forward everyday and makes us feel okay about ourselves. Imagine waking up every morning knowing you had killed another human being and witnessed your mates dying. As this candid piece demonstrates, it’s an unbearable weight that manifests in mental disorders, abusive relationships and, for some, suicide.

Bernard Clancy has written a bold and confident narrative featuring strong characters and a moving story of loss and redemption. The script is eloquent and Clancy is courageous enough to avoid political correctness without losing his key message: why do we send men and women off to war when we know the aftermath destroys not just the lives of those that served but families and communities? The script is probably 5–10 minutes too long with some of the conversations with Frank and Trish at the end sounding repetitive; nonetheless, for the most part, this piece has you on the edge of your seat.

Peter Finlay is fearless in this role as Frank. He plays Frank with both a toughness and fragility that exudes a sense that Frank is a bomb about to detonate. His performance is pitch perfect. He is supported by an able cast featuring Joanne Davis, Adrian Mulraney and Mauren Hartley who all give rounded performances and brings heart to this beautiful and tragic piece.

Rememberance Day on 11 November usually passes me by without stopping for a minute’s silence, but after seeing this play it was hard not stop this week to remember that innocent lives are lost in war, on both sides, both those that do not return and those that do. Lest we forget. Unfortunately, we have and governments still send men and women off to war.


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