Play: In Loyal Company
Venue: Pocklington Arts Centre
Review by: Julia Pattison
Actor David William Bryan is renowned for his solo performances, and after seeing his stunning performance of In Loyal Company to a packed audience at Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday November 8th I can see why.
From the moment David bounded onto the stark stage in character as his great-uncle Arthur Robinson (known to his friends and family as Joe), clutching a loaf of bread, then immediately breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience, leaving the loaf with a member of the audience sitting in the front row, we were fully immersed in the incredible true story of missing WW2 soldier Arthur Robinson.
The first part of the story concentrated on his life as a young man growing up; each character played by David was wonderfully brought to life, from his confident mate Harry, to sweet innocent Mary, who “Joe“ worshipped from afar and held a candle for throughout his later dark days of captivity.
No doubt those warm thoughts kept him going when at times all hope seemed lost.
Joe was motivated to sign up and serve his country after terrifying bombing raids on his home town of Liverpool. Special mention should be made of the spot on lighting and sound effects operated by John throughout the performance in Pocklington, which made us feel we were experiencing what Joe went through too. A particularly poignant and effective moment was when Joe was forced to abandon ship and dived deep into the ocean; the combination of compelling acting from David, and the eerie green lighting and accompanying sound effects was a superb piece of theatre.
Once again, David multi-roled every character with great energy, keeping the momentum of the story and engaging the audience.
Then we followed Joe as he became a FEPOW (Far East Prisoner of War); the peeling off of layers of clothing was most effective in the story telling, symbolic of Joe’s life being pared back to the very basics of surviving each day against all the odds. A large trunk was the only prop used on the stage, and contained various changes of clothes. When finally the camp in Thailand (where Joe had been labouring on the Thailand Burma railway) was liberated, a fresh set of clothing represented a fresh start for Joe, and his many fellow prisoners of war, who couldn’t believe they’d survived when so many of their friends didn’t. His Home Coming was a bitter-sweet experience.
The timing of the show was perfect just before 11th November; when David stood to attention at the end of the play as the Last Post was played, the message came across loud and clear, “Lest We Forget”.