FRINGE – The Bunker Trilogy: Morgana – The Bunker – 5K

In the trenches of World War I, three young officers celebrate the brief period of respite offered by the Christmas Day ceasefire. Despite their surroundings they are full of life, teasing one another and jokingly reminiscing about home and their days together at school. Gawain (James Marlowe) claims to have seen a girl out in no-man’s land, whistling; an unlikely event, according to his compatriots Arthur (Hayden Wood) and Lancelot (Sam Donnelly). These lads are the characters of ancient legend, and yet they’re not. Their Tintagel Castle was the Cornish boarding school where they grew up; their names, remnants from a boyhood game; their Merlin, the eccentric and enthusiastic headmaster who instilled in them a joie de vivre. Jamie Wilkes has created a clever script which, while reflective of the traditional story, is also conscious of this and acknowledges the fact that it is an adaptation.

As the New Year begins and the war goes on, the boys try to keep their spirits up, each welcoming the distraction created by women. This comes in the mixed forms of memories of sweethearts back in England, services provided by enterprising women of pleasure and, in Gawain’s case, a blossoming connection with a mysterious French girl he has met in a barn. Through these relationships the reflection of the characters from Arthurian legend are shown in their namesakes and we glimpse the confusing mix of maturity, bravery, innocence, optimism, helplessness, longing, humour, loyalty and selfishness at play inside each man.

In the side room of an office in the West End, an atmospheric, immersive space has been created to stage this piece – as well as the two others that form the company’s “Bunker Trilogy”. The in-the-round format means that the view will differ based on where an audience member is sitting; however, the direction (Jethro Compton) is well thought out so that at no point is the action blocked for any particular section but rather each will get a different, interesting, perspective. While mention was made beforehand of some early season glitches in the lighting and sound, this was not evident in the delivery of the piece or the experience created.

In such an intimate space, the performances of the actors need to be spot on to be believable and engaging.  On this level, the production cannot be faulted. The men transition from good natured joking to emotional turmoil and young school boys turn to haunted soldiers with natural ease. There appears an authentic bond between the three. Playing the dual roles of Gwen and Morgana, Bebe Sanders creates two strong female presences, each clearly defined yet reflected in the other, and exuding charm, delight, compassion and danger. Each performer also shines in the snippets of song performed throughout, which add to the stark beauty of the piece.

This company again delivers a funny, engaging and moving revision of a classic tale.

Kryztoff Rating: 5K

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