British veteran’s Falklands war on stage

This video from Britain is a 1983 Elvis Costello & Robert Wyatt interview about Shipbuilding (song about the Falklands war).

By Michal Boncza in England:

A Soldier’s Song

Tuesday 16 July 2013

John McIntosh Arts Centre, London SW6

As A spotlight picks out Ken Lukowiak, a thunderous explosion startles the audience.

Lukowiak ducks for cover and agitatedly begins to speak as the sounds of battle rage.

This is Goose Green and the British army is hard at it, attempting to dislodge the Argentinian forces from the Falkland Islands in this dramatisation of A Soldier’s Song.

Some 10 years after that conflict, Lukowiak’s Falklands war vignettes were unearthed from his decorator’s tool bag by Jill Tweedie and Alan Brien and the rest is literary history.

His stories – written in English and translated into Spanish, Polish and Czech – are required reading on university courses and they’ve placed Lukowiak firmly alongside Erich Maria Remarque, Michael Herr and Bao Ninh as one of the greatest war writers of the 20th century.

The short stories which started as rock song lyrics – hence the book’s title – are memorable for a rare honesty and biting satire in a prevailing climate of obscene jingoism.

The tone of scepticism is reinforced by some much-needed moral reflection on the futility of war.

On stage Lukowiak brings all these factors to bear in an impressive acting tour de force as he oscillates between the terror of battle, childhood memories, caustic barrack humour and the occasional song.

Death is only a breath away and the enemy is a faithful companion in a shared charade of senseless carnage where only pain and suffering seem tangible.

Lukowiak despairs at the waste of it all and the absence of redemption that will haunt many for the rest of their lives.

Yet humour provides temporary respite as when a pompous toff of a general arrives in a helicopter on a morale-raising inspection of trenches on a dark, freezing night. He leaves the sergeant and squaddies with nothing but a healthy contempt as they mock-seriously ask of the Argentinian air force: “Where are they when you need them?”

Ably adapted for the stage by Guy Masterson the rhythm of the narrative is punctuated by Gina Hills’s superbly evocative soundscape. It’s a play which stunned audiences at last year’s Edinburgh festival and its present topicality could not be more obvious.

“As long as we continue to act out these plays that have been written for us by the politicians, their priests and the men of this world who control the money then we shall never put an end to the horrors of war,” Lukowiak warns, leaving the audience to pick up the gauntlet.

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