The artistic form of choice to express the horrors of the First World War was poetry. Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke brought home the misery, terror and boredom of life in the trenches, and the recurring nightmares it induced. We have not, as yet, seen an emergence of a literary oeuvre of what history may well call the Iraq wars, but no doubt time will cure that. Could it be theatre? I’d like to think so.
Christmas is Miles Away, now at The Bush Theatre, will then have a place, albeit, I’m afraid, a small place, as an early attempt to tell – if only from the perspective of the home front – of the effects of the first Gulf War on one young squaddie, a young man, still a boy really, who was messed up enough even before he arrived at the war.
But that’s not how Chloe Moss’s third play, which debuted at the Royal Exchange, Manchester last year, starts out. We are in the middle of what seems like a classic coming of age story. Christie (David Judge) and Luke (Paul Stocker) are ill-matched “best friends”; the former the teachers undoubtedly call “the smart one”; the words they use about Luke are probably unprintable.
He’s your classic inarticulate, angry, bottled-up teen – not that, in his company, Christie is much better. They communicate through grunts, shrugs and monosyllables: “nothin'”, “what?”, “yeah”. But Moss, and the actors, do a good job of ensuring that the audience still finds this perfectly clear.
Into this rather volatile, conflict-ridden relationship comes the inevitable problem, a girl, Julie (Georgia Taylor), who’s winningly naive, nervously adventurous, and well-intentioned. Inevitably, however, her presence means problems, particularly when a drunk Luke, thrown out of his own house, wants to hang out at Christie’s at 4am.