July 31- Aug 26 (12.40)
The flyer for this one-man show featured the face of John the Wireless Operator (Thomas Dennis) and was enough to prepare you for what would be a serious exploration of one aspect of World War 2 – a bombing mission. The story portrayed an actual mission carried out by the father, Bob Baldwin, who has co-written the piece with Max Kinnings. After a short wait in the wonderful Pleasance courtyard, we took our places in the small Below space. The seats were dominated by a contraption hung by bars from the ceiling, designed to effectively convey the claustrophobic feeling of being in the wireless operator booth of a WW2 bomber, sitting us right there alongside the crew. All this was aided by an excellent sound design which again increased the intimate feeling that you were really there, watching the entire plane and experiencing the perilous and terrifying action taking place in the sky.
In his authentic bomber jacket (these original ones were made very thick because of the freezing temperatures the crew had to endure), and combat uniform, Dennis certainly looked the part as he took us on the hellish journey into action. Although he was alone on the stage, we were nonetheless aware of the rest of the crew, on the in-com. We could hear their communications and I thoroughly believed in his emotional connection with them and their need for each other, as they joked to try and dispel fear.
There were feelings of regret as he became lost in memories, taking him out of the hellish action, which continued to wail and scream as the plane went through its paces, performing nosedives and terrifying manoeuvres under enemy fire. John never asked for sympathy from us, but he despaired of his decision to enlist and he had our serious sympathies anyway.
Somehow they landed in France to great relief. But distress attacked John once more, how could he face his little girl? How could he go on living after bombing innocent people? There was no way back, no way out, he couldn’t accept what he had just been through and what he had operated, what he was in part responsible for. This was a killer play that was messy; exposing guts, tears, humanity, responsibility and showcased the cruel irony of ordinary decent men having to go to war. But duty had to be done, he did not ask for our mercy but he sure as sure asked for God’s. Another absolute must see – a bit of a masterpiece actually!