In the week the Government proposed that the military covenant be made law, a new work by Sandi Toksvig – best known for her various panel show appearances on Mock the Week and QI – addressing the issue of the affects of war on human individuals, has made its début at Southampton’s Nuffield theatre. Perfect timing for a highly relevant and intellectual play about the plight of an affected soldier, you might think?
This is the case for Bully Boy, a drama in which the effects of war upon a person, mentally and physically, are delved into. It is in a country alike Afghanistan that Major Oscar Hadley, played with outstanding authority by Anthony Andrews, arrives to investigate an incident involving The Bully Boys – a tight-nit group of squaddies who patrol the Afghan streets. From herein, the character of Private Eddie Clark, played with great maturity by Joshua Miles on his professional début, becomes the focus of a search into his war-altered mind.
As the human perspective of war is the core to Sandi Toksvig’s intellectual drama, so does the tone throughout ebb and flow as a soldier in the midst of war. It is this ability to flow so adeptly from scene to tumultuous scene which provides scope for death, danger and dancing to all fit hand in hand in the life of these two soldiers from differing ranks and generations. The interplay between the experienced Major and young private is something compelling, as stern, job-to-do duties are played exquisitely whilst tenderness is not slow, but moving in its coming.
In its affecting and poignant progressions an emotional response was key to the overarching aim of Bully Boy. Facts and findings from previous significant wars succeeded in bringing a sense of a place of history to the current overseas conflict, whilst assessing the conflict within a person’s conscience of having to kill another.
The play never lost its way, as reminders of the original investigation stood central in the staging plan, and coherence in both political and emotional argument was always forthcoming. Bully Boy proved to be a gem of a new play; with rare clarity of agenda and ambition in its promotion of debate on the subject of the care of soldiers.
No doubt a serious play, but an entertaining one nonetheless.