September 26th 2015, 3MT, Manchester..
“powerful, unsettling drama about war"
by Frank Hill for remotegoat on 26/09/15 4 stars
Three people, trapped in a remote house - the highest inhabited place in England - as the severest storm in one-hundred and fifty years draws in. That is where Chris Leicester’s play, ‘Hurricane Hill’, is heading. The build up to this situation is both intriguing and unsettling as we are drawn into the lives of these men and the reasons they have ended up in this place. I saw it performed at Three Minute Theatre in Manchester, after which it will be on tour.
Owen’s political career is in ruins and he is hiding away from mistakes in his past.
Paul turns up injured on Owen’s doorstep. He says he is on a Corporate Challenge Weekend and has lost his way, but it soon becomes clear he is lying. Paul is a soldier, riddled with guilt because of something that happened during a tour of duty in Afghanistan - and his appearance on Owen’s doorstep in neither accidental nor a coincidence.
Steve is Paul’s Sergeant Major, bullying and authoritative, but also with his own demons to contend with. How responsible was he for the deaths of men under his command?
And do each of these three men have even deeper secrets that they yet have to face?
This was a powerful play that kept us gripped for over two hours, becoming increasingly claustrophobic and intense as it developed.
Fine performances all round. Paul Braithwaite as the sensitive, defeated Owen. Chris Carney as Paul, the soldier who ‘followed orders’ to devastating effect. Roy Caruthers in strong supporting roles as a shifty politician and a Muslim shoe salesman. And a strikingly powerful performance by Kevin Branigan as the Sergeant Major - both terrifying and sympathetic in turn. You certainly wouldn’t be nodding off when he was on stage. I almost wanted to leap to attention myself at his wall-shuddering commands.
Owen’s views on the pointlessness of war, and that ‘if all soldiers refused to fight’ it would bring an end to conflict, may be naive cliches, but there could be no doubting the devastating effects war has on those on the front line - as well as innocents caught up in such horrors. Some soldiers may aspire to be heroes, may be 100% dedicated to their regiment (‘No questions, no answers, just the beret’ - Sergeant Major) but at the end of the day it can be as destructive mentally as it is physically for those who survive.
A powerful play, greatly enhanced by Chris Leicester’s sound effects - the boisterous ranting and heckling of MPs in the House of Commons (beautifully constructed to fit with the action on stage), the sounds of the battlefield, and the roar and rattle of a storm increasing in force and about to tear everything apart - including the lives of the people trapped in it.
A fine, thought provoking play. catch it on tour if you can.
October 20th 2013
Theatre Review// Hurricane Hill at Unity Theatre, Liverpool, 18/10/2013
Life can be just another form of pain on occasion – and in Hurricane Hill we see the initially separate struggles of four men under one perennial problem – war.
Opening with the thought provoking image of a pair of shoes on a table (unlucky for some, as a member of the audience noted) we soon hear footsteps out of the storm as Owen, sole resident of Hurricane Hill notes the arrival of the worst storm seen for a long while with an ambiguous 'so finally on your way then…'
So far so atmospheric but then we hear a loud crash and soon we see a seemingly unconscious Paul (at this point unknown to Owen even by name) dragged onto the stage. Were this on television the titles would surely kick in now and in that sense the opening mystery is excellently done. As they begin to talk, with Paul demanding ‘a Nescafe’ coffee rather than ‘that fancy filter stuff’ in a rare humorous moment we start to get some ideas of just how he’s ended up at the highest occupied point of England although the real reason revealed towards the climax is still unexpected and still as poignant as the desperate statement from Paul that he’s “Lost…”
As you’d expect from a production concerned with such a heavy topic there is much to make you think. From the anti-war political protestations of Owen in his political position, tainted by a press revelation about his affair with a shoe sales man, to Paul’s guilt over shooting a father and son in Afghanistan there is much to think about after you’ve walked out of the doors and onto the street, which was as rainy and thunderous but thankfully not as violent as that which lay waste to Owen's home on the aptly named Hurricane Hill.
As with any trip to the Unity Theatre, this was an evening that was truly impressive. The performances from all four actors were pitched perfectly, never over the top even in moments of extreme emotional turmoil and whilst the portrayal of a Sergeant-Major is one that can easily fall apart in shards of pomposity the initially all swearing, all over the top macho performance never reveals a shade of falsehood. It was war, but underneath the swear words there was a genuine care for his men.
Whilst many of my visits to this venue are for performances of a similar vein and topic, Hurricane Hill certainly is one that will remain in my memory for weeks to come. Should you get a chance to see this play in any potential future performances, you should look forward to it immensely.
Words by Sebastian Gahan.