Theatre Review: The Unreturning At Theatre Royal Stratford East

The Unreturning, Theatre Royal Stratford East ★★★☆☆

By Mike C

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Theatre Review: The Unreturning At Theatre Royal Stratford East The Unreturning, Theatre Royal Stratford East 3
Photo: Tristram Kenton

The centenary of the 1914-18 war may have passed, but in Anna Jordan’s ambitious The Unreturning, three wars (two real, one imagined) intertwine and overlap, and remind us that it is inevitably young, working class men who pay the highest price. And, she surmises, there’s another one coming.

Appropriately, Frantic Assembly, (the theatre company behind the Tony-winning Curious Incident), unleashes an energetic and muscular cast, and director Neil Bettles puts them to work, leaping all over Andrzej Goulding’s harsh, unforgiving sets. These conjure first world war trenches perhaps more easily than the homely comforts of Scarborough, which seems little more than a generic Northern backdrop (“Scarbados!” notwithstanding).

Photo: Tristram Kenton

Joe Layton’s muscular ‘Goldenballs’ Frankie has a macho charm, but it is George, played with controlled vibrancy by Hollyoaks alumnus Jared Garfield, who holds it all together, anchoring a — sometimes literally — listing vessel in strange and frightening seas. If some of the soliloquys and choregraphed movement sequences have an overtly improv feel, it’s a useful reminder that war isn’t all gym-toned, RADA-trained fun and games. Definitely worth returning for.

The Unreturning, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, E15 1BN. Tickets £10-41, until 2 February 2019.

Last Updated 18 January 2019