Tuesday 10 March 2009

A Miracle

Traditionally, babies don’t fare well at the Royal Court. Soldiers returning from combat tend to get a pretty hard time too. So perhaps it is to Molly Davies’s credit that in The Miracle, it takes half the play before the soldier goes psycho and that the baby survives intact.

Gary, the soldier, returns home for what he says is indefinite compassionate leave. Spotted by her grandmother Val at the shops, he goes to see his former crush Amy. At the same time, he tries to patch up his relationship with his dad Rob.

The opening if Davies’s play is likeable enough. Russell Tovey is a likeable and talented actor, and his portrayal of Gary briefly suggests that The Miracle might not conform to cynical type in its portrayal of returning members of the British Army. In fact the thing chugs along like the omnibus edition of The Archers until Gary punches Amy in the face over a minor domestic dispute. After that, we’re just waiting for him to eat the baby or stone it to death.

Ultimately, though Davies isn’t really saying anything about soldiers or war. This is about the effect of families on the psyche. Gary isn’t home because of the war, but because he heard his father tried to commit suicide following the loss of the farm on which he grew up.

It’s a well-written play – the dialogue fairly crackles with jokes and subtext – but the plot is a bit nothing-y. Lyndsey Turner’s direction is excellent, setting the piece in the round and extracting fine, detailed performances on the turf-covered set. Ultimately, though, the piece just feels like filler. Like a very well-handled exercise in writing A Play. It feels like it needs a lot more weight and a few less clichés before it really turns into something urgent, but as Archers omnibuses go, it’s certainly got a lot of promise.

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