An intimate, emotional play examining the impact of armed service on the family members left behind, ‘A Family Beyond The Army’ is a powerful piece of theatre. The script walks a fine line between humorously emotional articulation and real life honesty with aplomb, while the cast turn in subtle, skilful performances. The central relationship between actors Mai Cunningham and Paul Innes is particularly well drawn; taking the audience through love, bitterness and regret without missing a step. The staging is a little awkward, with the separation of the actors at times limiting our ability to experience their interactions fully and there is no exploration of the choice to serve. Despite this, this proves an emotionally affecting, excellently acted play.
tw rating 4/5 | [Andrew Bell]
A Family Beyond The Army shines a human and compassionate light on the many men and women who hold families and daily lives together awaiting news of their loved one far away. It follows the story of a soldier (Paul Innes) as he finds love with a local girl (Mai Cunningham) who lives with her ever watchful mother (Gerry Fleming). There is also a discharged sergeant (Colin Graham), the husband of Cunningham’s best friend (Kathryn Debbage). Innes floats in and out of Cunningham’s life as he serves in various deployments. As life goes on at home, facing up to marriage and parenthood, it’s Innes’ absence that puts intolerable strain on the relationship. The play shows this in a highly compassionate way. The story builds towards a very moving finale that is brought vividly to life thanks to Cunningham’s wonderful acting. The entire small cast turn in very polished performances that demonstrate their keen understanding of the subject matter. The production has been devised from a collection of writings and an adaption of an original story. It’s a testament to those who really are left behind - who have given their stories freely - to allow this show to take on such a human and, above all, compassionate feeling.
The only thing pulling the show down is the very claustrophobic feeling of a tiny stage that is overloaded with three large wooden window frames and watching the actors trying to slide past them really distracts and stunters the flow and pace of the piece. There is a fine line in intimate theatre where a production will work or indeed won’t. It’s the quality of the acting which ensures this production can rise above the difficulties of its set.
Skilled direction from Amy Skilling, an engrossing and involving script and acting of the highest magnitude ensure this is one play which will quite rightly live long the memory.
Brett Herriott http://www.broadwaybaby.com/listing.php?id=21673
EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS
Based on a story by James D Lindsay, [the play] tells the story of Louise, a girl who’s been let down in love, so is sceptical when she falls for Scott on the eve of his departure for the army.
What happens next and how she copes is the subject of this new play, at Sweet, Grassmarket.
Performed in a compact space, with minimal but effective set and considered sound and light, this is a poignant and pointed script, nicely directed by Amy Skilling and beautifully acted. Mai Cunningham and Paul Innes are touchingly sweet in the early days of their courtship but you feel their frustration vast as an ocean at the long enforced absences. Kathryn Debbage is great fun as Louise’s sympathetic best friend.
A cracking piece of theatre with all proceeds donated to three military charities.
This is a straight play with charitable objectives that quite simply works. There is no need to be charitable in your view of the piece - it simply does what it intends and does it very well. You have Scott and Louise arguing and in a time when we are finally catching on to the difficulties of returning soldiers – I live 15 miles away from Hollybush – we could be forgiven for thinking PTSD was on the cards here. It’s not. Louise’s story becomes the focus ... we travel with her and Scott on a journey that is as compelling and complete as you could hope.
You could be forgiven for thinking that we have become uncharitably fed up with charities. From people in the street to door to door canvassers we don’t even need Telethons any more as people try to snatch the guilty pound from our pay packets. You could therefore understand if any of the five actors dropped their levels for this. The remarkable thing is not that they don’t but they give you such a complete sense of knowing with what they are engaged. They provide us with the most incredible insight whilst showing how important the themes and issues are to THEM, never mind how important they ought to be to us. All five enthral.
This is a great piece of work that presents the facts and asks you to consider them. It doesn’t ask you to see one character as selfish and the other as misunderstood. It doesn’t ask you to ban your daughter from seeing soldiers or try and steer your son into the army. It asks you to watch and then realise how hard these issues are for the people stuck with them on a daily basis. It then asks you to contribute to three highly worthwhile charities. The biggest contribution that could be made was when these creatives took on this play and asked us for our support. We need to give them it.
Reviewed by Donald C Stewart Friday 16th August 2013
Read the full review at http://www.fringereview.co.uk/fringeReview/5590.html
Maintaining a good ‘work-life balance’ is hard enough for most of us but what if you’re separated from your loved one for months at a time and in danger of never seeing him again? That’s the tension at the heart of this gripping, poignant drama.
The script manages to avoid all the potential pitfalls in a powerful combination of wry humour and pathos.The staging for this was very simple, but worked really well. Cast members stood in one of three frames facing the audience, enabling us to see the faces of the speakers in all sides of every conversation.
We all have our views on the rights and wrongs of the Afghan conflict, but whatever position we take, we must recognise the sacrifices made by the families at home as well as the men and women sent to fight in far-flung war zones around the world. . This moving play gives it to us straight with no sugar-coating. Let’s not forget them, but do our damnedest to make sure that politicians who keep spouting nonsense about Britain ‘punching above its weight’ don’t throw away more lives of mothers’ sons or fathers’ daughters to satisfy their deluded ambitions.
Three service charities: Help for Heroes, Erskine and Scotty’s Little Soldiers share the proceeds from this production.
Don’t miss it.
Reviewed by Dave Kerr
"This is such a well-thought out play. In a small venue the set is so impressive dividing the different acts into windows into a soldier's family and friends' lives. The actors play their parts so naturally - taking the play forward from meetings, marriages tours of duty and onwards. Humour and drama are played out and they must take credit for keeping it so fresh and natural two weeks into the Fringe. This is a must-see play. I heard one man come out and say it made him cry as it is so poignant and, also, true to life. I am surprised that this has not been reviewed by critics but this does happen such a lot. Another mobile phone going off could have ruined it but they carried on very professionally. Well done to all the cast and designers and writers. "
Ian McKenzie, submitted via www.edfringe.com
"Moved me to tears instantly. A brilliantly written play with a strong cast. It\'s real and easy to relate to - a great story line that has made me reflect on what I should be grateful for in life! Very moving guys I hope this doesn't end in Edinburgh."
"Excellent production! Actors were first class. Well worth a visit."
"Great. Well done to all the cast my husband and I have just left the show who were one of those couples who experienced injury whilst my husband was out serving in Afghanistan and we both thought you represented families like us very well. Thank you. I hope the rest of the shows are all sell outs it's a great cause. Fantastic acting, good comedy as well as emotion. from gemma and iain syme"
"5 stars... A great show with a great cast. Well worth a look!"
Above submitted via SMS to www.lovefringe.com