Wednesday, 8 November 2017
A new drama about a female officer bringing the worst possible news to military families benefits from a well-written central character and an excellent performance, says Peter Barker.
by Martin McNamara
When Death Comes Knocking
A woman army officer has the duty to inform nearest relatives when a serviceman, their loved one, from her unit has been killed.
I.E.D, Martin McNamara's clever and pithy new drama, is set nine years ago during the height, for the British, of the conflict in Afghanistan and is matched by some excellent performances.
The acronym IED stands for "Improvised Explosive Device", the bombs which are often the weapon of choice for the Taliban waging jihad in Afghanistan.
Captain Agnes Bennett is stationed in London. She's tough and a seemingly dispassionate female army officer whose duties include the "death knock", breaking the news to military families.
She has carried out 10 such death knocks, with another now in prospect, as she dresses herself after a night of emotionally distant sex with a man met on a singles' website.
McNamara’s script delivers some wit and tellingly effective lines.
He has also created an intriguing and rounded character in Agnes Bennett, played with convincingly curt military focus by Safron Beck, despite, we learn, the emotional toll beneath.
McNamara’s other lead character is Private Iain Maginnis, allocated to assist Agnes as someone who knew the deceased. Jordan Fyffe lends him charm and emotional intelligence, revealing, eventually, another side to the dead man.
Rebecca Lyon, a recent directing graduate from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, shows a little inexperience in allowing the physical focus to drift away from the centre of the stage.
The sparse furnishings and some glaringly inauthentic military garb also betray a production obviously done on a shoestring.
Playwright McNamara does include at least one clumsy stereotype in the shape of Sarah Jane Charlton's prostitute. However Dickon Farmer fares better as a more convincing one-night stand.
Nevertheless, McNamara has created a memorable character in Agnes Bennett, qualities which Lyon maximises in her direction of Safron Beck's remarkable performance.
For this reason the production, which runs until Saturday, November 11, is worth an amber/green light.
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