Review: Cockpit - Immersive view best from stage

Peter Hannah, Deka Walmsley and Kaja Pecnik in Cockpit
Peter Hannah, Deka Walmsley and Kaja Pecnik in Cockpit
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IMMERSIVE, intuitive and inventive, Wils Wilson’s take on Bridget Boland’s rarely performed 1948 play, Cockpit, offers a unique view of the Royal Lyceum.

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ROYAL LYCEUM, Grindlay Street

The theatre has been transformed into a provincial German playhouse being used as a transit camp for displaced persons - it’s 1945 and the Second World War has just ended.

As actors scramble around the auditorium and the audience doubles as war-torn refugees, theories and beliefs clash igniting fear and dissent.

The British Army is in charge, there are orders to be followed irrespective of the consequences.

A young Scottish officer, out of his depth, and a wise, world-weary Geordie sergeant must evacuate the theatre, dispatching those in their care home.

And therein lies the rub; with just two convoys, one heading East, the other West, the challenge is getting the reluctant allies to travel together.

Poles and Russians, Serbs and Croats, communists and anarchists, partisans and collaborators; the remains of a fractured Europe may be struggling to survive, but they still know how to hate.

Performed by an international cast of 12, the result is at times mixed with stand out performances from Alexandra Mathie, as The Professor, and Deka Walmsley, full of northern bonhomie, as Sergeant Barnes.

Kaisa Hammarlund too brings natural vim to French resistance fighter Marie, while Peter Hannah as the overwhelmed Captain Ridley lays bare his character’s fragility.

As the theatre’s German stage manager, Dylan Read may raise laughs, but his is an incongruous performance.

As part of the interactive experience, it is possible to view the action from the stage, it brings a fresh perspective and is a must.

While, on the whole, Aly Macrae’s ethereal score adds a haunting presence to the piece, at other times it jars, disjointing the flow.

That said, the play itself is like the Europe it depicts, a fractured piece. With a nice line in gallows humour it also has a tendency towards melodrama and boasts an outrageous Act 1 cliff-hanger of which River City would be proud.

In today’s world climate, however, Cockpit serves to reinforce the belief that the more things change, the more they remain the same, despite the theory that we are more alike than we are different.

Run ends 28 October