Theatre in Wales

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Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Sherman Cymru- Deep Cut , Traverse Theatre Edinburgh , August 4, 2008
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Sherman Cymru- Deep Cut From the castle rock, high above Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, the hills of Fife are clearly visible. That county was the setting for the acclaimed “Black Watch” which at one level celebrated the depth of the bonds between military and community. The picture offered by Sherman Cymru’s “Deep Cut” is a sourer vision, of vulnerable trainees, warped NCO’s and an organisational culture of indifference to the welfare of those within it.

The deaths at Deepcut Barracks are well-known; four young people were found dead over a period of six years, including Cheryl James from Llangollen, violent deaths hastily judged as self-inflicted and rushed through hurried inquests. Nine years after the first death an inquiry was set up, financed by the MOD, but which lacked the power to compel the appearance of witnesses. Much of the evidence proved to have been ignored, lost or tainted. Four reports, eventually produced by Surrey Police, were withheld from public view with not even summaries available. Philip Ralph’s play shows, in detail, that independent forensic investigation rendered the official causes of death simply incredible.

There is a now well established strand of “judicial theatre”, most closely associated with London’s Tricycle Theatre. “Deep Cut” is a proud addition, researched with colossal diligence, imaginatively constructed, and passionately played. Significantly, the printed text of Philip Ralph’s play covers fifty pages while the supporting material runs to sixty-seven pages. This is not closed theatre. The deaths are still a burning issue with the victims’ families calling for a full independent public enquiry. As shown in the arrest of Radovan Karadic last week there is no timeline on justice.

With a uniformly excellent cast of six it is in the nature of the piece that three of the roles are necessarily documentary. The emotional weight falls on Ciaran McIntyre and Rhian Morgan as parents Des and Doreen James. Director Mick Gordon has elicited performances of subtly contrasting portrayals of loss. Rhian Blythe, last seen on stage in “Blink”, plays Jonesy, a fellow army recruit. She is a generation younger than the other characters, crucial in contrast, and her performance is a luminous mix of youthfulness, fresh-faced inexperience and later realism.

The day that “Deep Cut” opened in Scotland Barry George was released from eight years of imprisonment on the contested evidence of a single piece of polyester fibre. The police effort had been massive; as in “Deep Cut” it was a reminder that the gradations of class and privilege run on as deep in death as they do in life.

Unmissable quality theatre when it returns to Wales next month.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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