York Theatre Royal – until Friday 30th March 2018. Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
York Theatre Royal brings the LIFT production by Lola Arias to its stage. Minefield is the incredible production of six Falkland/Malvinas war veterans, former enemies, and their experiences of the 1982 Falklands War. Three British, including a Gurkha, and three Argentinians, now in their 50’s, all share their stories on stage through film footage, photographs, diaries and music, in English and Spanish with accompanying subtitles, under the direction of Lola Arias.
Gabriel Sagastume was a soldier who never wanted to shoot a gun, now he is a criminal lawyer. David Jackson spent the war listening and transcribing radio codes, now he listens to other veterans in his role as a counsellor. Marcelo Vallejo was a mortar direction controller, now he is a triathlon champion. Sukrim Rai was a Gurkha and expert with his knife, now he works as a security guard. Ruben Otero survived the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano, now he has a Beatles tribute band
Lou Armour was on the front page of every newspaper when the Argentinians took him prisoner on the 2nd April, now he is a teacher for children with learning difficulties.
With the great use of monologue intertwined with physical pieces, haunting music and the use of visual effects in the background it made for a captivating show. It was fascinating to hear the opposing sides and the different lives of the servicemen. The British career soldier, well trained and equipped, then the Argentine servicemen, who were conscripts, cold, hungry, undertrained and poorly equipped.
We hear stories from Otero and the sinking of the General Belgrano, which resulted in the death of 323, more than half of the Argentinian death toll, Vallejo experiencing the death of his friend right before his eyes, Armour being captured on the first day of the war and his photo being plastered on the front pages of newspapers around the world, he did return, and many more moving tales.
The war lasted only 74 days, which according to the cast was shorter than the rehearsals for this show, though the after effects are still lurking after all this time. The men discuss aspects that they found too uncomfortable to include in the show, but there is also humour with Jackson in drag, and some upbeat music, Vallejo learning bass just for this show.
As part of our show the was a Q and A section afterwards, this was a perfect epilogue to the production, amusing, inciteful and uncomfortably emotional at times. It was mentioned that this week 100 Argentine families are visiting the graves of their loved ones for the very first time, 36 years after the event.
I always like to see a show with no prejudgment, so I generally do not read anything about it or do any research, just go in with a clean sheet in order to make my own mind up, that is how I am. On hearing about the show, I wasn’t sure if the cast were just actors playing their parts, or actual war veterans. Even when they entered the stage it wasn’t clear, to me anyway, but you soon realise that they were the real deal and this made for such a more poignant and powerful show.
This is not a polished production, sometimes awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, but is about human beings and these former soldiers emerge with great dignity, getting on with their lives to the best of their ability. It was seriously engaging, a heartfelt performance and well deserved the standing ovation at the end.