BELGIAN company Thalia Theatre’s Front, is described as a “polyphonic vocal orchestra” of a dozen actors speaking four languages in which real accounts from the Western Front are blended in an attempt to give new expression to the terror of life in the trenches.
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They blend expertly with a crashing and haunting experimental score to emphasise the long understood truth that the awful lot of the common soldier is universal to all uniforms; the loss of comrades, the numbing fear of combat and the acceptance that delivering death is part of the job.
The problem for this show, especially as it relied heavily on the work of Erich Maria Remarque and his classic All Quiet on the Western Front is, in this year of all years, the audience knows this already.
So a production with no plot, virtually no action, where it’s often difficult to tell which actor is speaking and which essentially tells us little new, does not make for a gripping two hours.
The performance contains vivid descriptions of how soldiers tried to maim themselves to get out of the front line. Unfortunately, there is a point about three-quarters of the way through where you would be forgiven for looking for an easy exit too. I didn’t hear any shots, but some did.