Bleak, harrowing, traumatising, devastating. Not the usual things itemised as highlights of a theatre production, but for Cheekish Productions' Shoot / Get Treasure / Repeat and Eschara at Union Theatre, these are the downbeat elements that make this an extraordinary evening.
Three-part Eschara by Philip Whiteman premiered at Brighton Fringe 2009, Mark Ravenhill's three-part cycle was created for Edinburgh Fringe 2007. Shoot / Get Treasure / Repeat focuses on the war on terror and feels like deleted scenes from Sarah Kane's Blasted: a soldier assaults a civilian, demanding her love, a woman discovers why her neighbour habitually screams in the night and a middle-class couple succumb to fears and prejudices bred by war. The cast bring out the dark humour in Ravenhill's writing and present the violence and menace admirably; it's rare to feel frightened while simultaneously laughing.
Eschara's three parts focus on the London bombings - a fraught chess game, a clinic with patients too scarred to leave and a conversation between two sisters, one still grieving for her son killed on 7 July. This last piece was beautifully written and performed, pitched perfectly to show how important it is to move on and how impossible it seems to do so. There was sobbing in the audience when this gem came to a close; it was bleak, raw but dignified and deeply moving.
Due to the episodic format, there is no climactic ending to Shoot / Get Treasure / Repeat and Eschara, resulting in no catharsis. Cheekish Productions is a victim of its own success - such is the ferocity, intensity and tenacity of writing, direction and performance and the slick, confident staging, this theatre cycle weighs heavily on the mind long after it finishes. The horror, pain, guilt and anger since 7 July 2005 hangs in the oppressive atmosphere, with no ultimate resolution or exorcism and therein lies the recommendation to see this - it really sticks with you. But also, a word of warning: it may scar you.
Shoot / Get Treasure / Repeat and Eschara at Union Theatre until 24 April. For more information and tickets, go to the Cheekish Productions website.