A barbed wire fence separates the audience from the actors and the stage in the first half of Daniel Keene’s play, in the segment entitled Citizens. We are in an unspecified war-torn country watching as ordinary people go about the business of their lives in extraordinary circumstances. The citizens garden, look after loved ones (including pets) and muddle on despite precarious living conditions.
The fifteen strong cast make up this community and then another one: Soldiers, when they embody the family of five soldiers who have been slain in battle.
Keene asks fundamental questions through his characters like: is it even our war? The appalling grief is made more palpable with the families in Soldiers feeling so distanced from the war that the men lost their lives in. There is no sense of ownership of the conflict which makes death seem even more senseless. Also questioned is the family who cannot bear to greet the dead at the airplane hangar where the action in Soldiers is set, one young man rails against a mother who stayed at home.
Grief is a tricky beast though, perhaps the hardest part of it for soldiers and citizens is the absence of any sense of closure, as when death is a result of war, no one gets a chance to say good-bye. The result is a gaping wound that can be worse than any battle scar.
Director Kristin Landon-Smith has managed the action with clarity as the actors come and go from the stage in a series of scenes with well choreographed care. Impressive performances across the board also made for a seamless production. The character’s stories are all different but they all suffer the same, the play establishes that we are all fundamentally more alike than not, which is another reason why war is so futile.
Writer Daniel Keene won a NSW Premier’s Literary award for The Serpent’s Teeth, his writing is lyrical while addressing the costs of war, the story is a subtle yet plaintive search for meaning in an impossible minefield.
The Serpent’s Teeth is on until 24 November, for more information and tickets see: http://www.kingsxtheatre.com/the-serpents-teeth/
Director: Kristin Landon-Smith
Featuring: Danny Ball, Bernadette Fam, Phoebe Grainer, Nicholas Hasemann, Lisa Huyhn, Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn, Steven Menteith, Jillian Nguyen, Angela Sullen, Jens Radda, Joseph Raggatt, Saleh Saqqaf, Chloe Schwank, Louis Segeuir and Ross Sharp.