Arms and the Man at the Abbey Theatre Studio, St Albans

10:53 19 June 2014

Surbiton County Grammar and Company of Ten versions of Arms and the Man

Surbiton County Grammar and Company of Ten versions of Arms and the Man

Archant

With a fresh outbreak of fighting in Iraq and continuing warfare in adjoining Syria, the Company of Ten could not have chosen a better time to perform Arms and the Man.

The Bernard Shaw play is a bittersweet comedy about the futility of war and human hypocrisy with a cast of memorable characters ranging from the overbearingly pompous to the upwardly mobile.

It is being performed in the Abbey Theatre Studio and it is a good choice to perform it there – it brings an intimacy to the play that would have been lost on the main stage.

Arms and Man is set during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of the late 19th Century and the action is played out in the home and garden of Major Petkoff’s house in Bulgaria.

The ramifications of the appearance in the bedroom of Raina Petkoff of the Swiss mercenary Captain Blintschli in the aftermath of the fighting is at the heart of the play.

Marlon Gill takes the role of the anti-hero mercenary who at first scares Raina and then enables her to be herself instead of the overblown romantic she becomes when with her fiancé, Sergius.

He puts on a very good performance as Blintschli’s character changes from the escaping ‘chocolate soldier’ to a man in control of a situation he could never have expected to have found himself in.

Katy Jane Meehan gives a sparkling comedic performance as Raina, particularly in her scenes with Julian Wathen’s upright Sergius who, in turn, makes the Bulgarian officer a compelling figure despite his snobbery and arrogance.

Both men are in stark contrast to Roy Bookham’s inept Major Petkoff, demonstrating the meaningless of many military titles, and Chrystalla Spire is a delight as Raina’s mother Catherine who has no choice other than to put up with him.

Kirsten Lees as the mischief-making servant Louka, and Bruce Hardwicke-Green as the middle-aged servant Nicola who expects to marry her make up a very good cast.

Director Angela Stone is careful to tread the dividing line between comedy and glorifying war and she does so successfully – the play is entertaining but at the same time the message is all too clear.

Arms and the Man runs until Saturday (21) and tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

MADELEINE BURTON

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