Review by Esmee West-Agboola
Bury the Dead at Finborough Theatre is a unique and engaging story which captures the sense of unjust, premature death at the mercy of someone else’s agenda.
Rafaella Marcus’ direction successfully provides an interesting reality for the surreal, slightly fear-infusing ideas in Shaw’s writing. The concept itself, being that 6 dead soldiers refuse to be buried, is immediately challenging for our imaginations. However, the production does the work for us in making it as believable as possible. Particularly within the opening and the first sections of the plot, the action is accompanied by dreary sound and lighting designs, as well as a grave-associative set. These artistic choices create a distinctive horror-like and supernatural atmosphere; not qualities hugely explored in a lot of theatre today. The production is unique in this way.
However, there is a shift in this mood later in the production when the 6 dead soldiers are visited each by a significant woman in their lives, under orders. Although a heavily male production, what I found most engaging is how these 6 women (multi-roled by Sioned Jones and Natalie Winsor) seem to be perceived as tools to convince the men to agree to their burials, regardless of their own grief or emotional processes. As a result, whether intentional or not, they seem to take the slight cliché position of ‘shock absorbers’ throughout the piece. I would have preferred to see more of a point made with that representation.
It is, however, worth mentioning that the writing is heavily plot-focused and specific to its time period, meaning that these subtler dynamics can get lost. This in itself is interesting as the plot-line does not greatly fluctuate in terms of intensity or stakes. With the open ending of the play, I couldn’t help but feel that I had missed something that could be more clearly applicable to our modern day. This would have been more to my personal taste.
Generally, though, the concept of this story is so strong that this is forgivable. Overall, it is an engaging piece which leaves us in a state of reflection.
Bury the Dead is on until 24 November https://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2018/bury-the-dead.php