To set a love story against the backdrop of a historic tragedy is a bold decision, and From Here to Eternity lays its cards on the table from the outset. The characters in the play are almost entirely soldiers and prostitutes, the play paints a multi-layered story of life in Hawaii, immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbour.
The plot is lead by a pair of complex love stories – one involving a married woman, and the other a prostitute. As the men fall in love with their less than conventional women, themes of desire and faithfulness unfold, weaving an intriguing tale, and exposing some interesting back-stories. The characters cling to each other against a tapestry of difficulties, with death and violence integral to army life.
The plot takes dramatic dips and turns, while the styling of the play is strong and decidedly masculine. The soldier’s choreography takes inspiration from army drills and sees the men leaping and push-up-ing their way around the stage in percussive musical numbers. The female presence comes almost entirely from the harem of local prostitutes who cavort daringly in vintage underwear, performing cheerleader-esque somersaults on stage. The play is incredibly energetic throughout making it a real spectacle to watch. It feels very youthful, and lurches from exuberant release to life and death drama.
…heart stopping slow motion action sequences…
Musically the play is superb; the talented orchestra creates a powerful sound, with a subtle 1940s influence. The staging is gritty and masculine, with occasional moments of glamour, or recreations of natural beauty. The result is a real sense of atmosphere, that helps immerse the audience into the setting. Even the devastating reality of what happened at Pearl Harbour is artfully acknowledged through a series of video projections and heart stopping slow motion action sequences that bring war to the forefront.
That is not to say this is a perfect play. Overall it feels a little too long and loose in places, with some veering storylines appearing entirely un-necessarily. In particular the island’s gay bar plays host to some barely warranted sideline drama. Some of the songs reprise time after time, presumably to echo the repetitive nature of the army way of life, but in reality just causing the audience to shuffle restlessly in their seats.
…From Here to Eternity manages to endear itself to the audience…
However as the love stories reach their conclusion, and the Second World War comes to the shores of Hawaii, From Here to Eternity manages to endear itself to the audience. Its mix of big action numbers and a wonderful score manage to compensate for the sometimes flawed plot development.
Perhaps it’s not the next West End classic, but it’s a great evening’s entertainment.