The one thing I enjoy is war, namely the World Wars, so I was delighted to get the chance to check out Vertical Line Theatre’s newest play Fear in a Handful of Dust. Staged at the COG ARTSPACE above The De Beauvoir Arms near Dalston Junction, the space is small and intimate, which is perfect for this production that centres on two soldiers in the trenches of WW1.
The play focuses on two soldiers who are stuck in a trench, and cannot leave because a German sniper knows the position of them . Simon (Jack Morris) is an upper class soldier from India whereas Buck (Henry Regan) is Irish, lower class and has been in the trenches for longer. At the beginning of the play, we are introduced to a terrified Simon, scared by the sounds of shelling and his own loneliness. Buck appears over the side of the trench and immediately lightens the mood with his Irish banter, but neither can escape the fear of the situation. A situation that only gets worse after Simon finds out Buck is wounded. From then on it’s a journey of discovery between the two soldiers who are so different, yet so close in similarity regarding their families and experiences (both of them lost family members when they were young).
As harsh as the subject matter sounds, there is humour throughout – namely from Buck who can only see the positive side to the situation. Throw in hallucinations, nudity, and peeing onto open wounds, and within this severe environment is a human element.
Fear in a Handful of Dust is a complex and harrowing play. Of course we can only emapthise with the complete horror and nightmare the trenches; this 60 minute slice of theatre brings us as close as we can get. The chemistry between both actors makes the story even more believable and as both soldiers’ stories comes to a climactic end, the audience is left to ponder the loss and fear that war truly brings.
Fear in a Handful of Dust is showing till 9 January at COG ARTSPACE