3 stars ***
Summerhall (Venue 26)
IN A BASEMENT space at Summerhall a man is throwing small piees of chopped liver at a metal plate screwed to a rough brick wall. In the repetitive style often adopted by Badac – a company dedicated to portraying oppression in all its forms – he goes through the ritual of throwing the liver not once or twice, but five or six times. The idea is to conjure up the horror of repeated attacks on the Western Front during the First World War. The soldier hears the call to arms, prays or mutters, goes over the top, charges, throws the bloody mess at the wall; then his sweetheart, a nurse, comes and clears the liver into a bucket, delicately sewing and patching some pieces of it, discarding others.
The presence of this bloody mess is meant, of course, to conjure up the utter carnage of the western front; the trouble is that the image is both too literal and too small to begin to encompass the horrror of the trenches. Elsewhere in this play, though, there is some fine writing and acting, particularly around the character of the nurse, who tries to keep the spectre of her fiance’s death at bay by the sheer force of her love; and Steve Lambert’s text – partly inspired by Vera Britain’s Testament Of Youth – shows a deep and sometimes lyrical understanding of how millions of survivors lost the future that would have given their lives meaning, in this mighty explosion of state-organised violence.