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Bear with me: Sun Bear @ParkTheatre

If The Light House is an uplifting tale of survival, Sarah Richardson’s Sun Bear gives a contrasting take on this. Sarah plays Katy. We’re introduced to Katy as she runs through a list of pet office peeves with her endlessly perky coworkers, particularly about coworkers stealing her pens. It’s a hilarious opening monologue that would have you wishing you had her as a coworker to help relieve you from the boredom of petty office politics.  But something is not quite right in the perfect petty office, where people work together well. And that is her. And despite her protesting that she is fine, the pet peeves and the outbursts are becoming more frequent. As the piece progresses, maybe the problem lies in a past relationship, where Katy had to be home by a particular hour, not stay out late with office colleagues and not be drunk enough not to answer his calls. Perhaps the perky office colleagues are trying to help, and perhaps Katy is trying to reach out for help. It has simple staging

When women war: The Lonely Soldier Monologues @cockpittheatre @LSpace10

The Lonely Soldier Monologues, currently playing at the Cockpit Theatre, by Helen Benedict takes the stories of seven women who served in the US Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. What emerges from this verbatim play is the subtle and none-too subtle methods of discrimination and sexual harassment that they suffer serving in the armed forces.

The piece is not anti-war or anti-military; for many of these women the serving in the Armed services was a way to show patriotic duty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or just a way off welfare. But it highlights many of the excesses known from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, in war so poorly planned and organised that soldiers had to make do without body armour but could still eat lobster.

In return for soldiers giving over their lives to serve, the message from this piece is that they end up serving in a dysfunctional organisation where men were always promoted and the women have to endure constant unwanted advances, derogatory comments or even rape. And the individuals are always just pawns in a larger battle playing out by generals or politicians.

Given recent stories in the media, where women have been told they would be better off facing the sexual harassment than speaking out, this is not just confined to the armed services (or the US Military).

It also poses some broader questions about what happens to the veterans when they return home. One woman, who entered the military to get off welfare after being in an abusive relationship, finds after Iraq she is out of the military and back on welfare.

The piece is based on true stories, although the identities have been changed. And there is a realism in both the staging and the performances. It is convincingly acted by the ensemble cast and there is warmth and humour in the performances.

Overall, it is a powerful and moving piece and will have you wondering about the basic human rights for all those serving in the military.

The show will also be holding post-show talks on themes of military justice in the US and UK and domestic and sexual violence with writer Professor Helen Benedict, Emma Norton from Liberty and Madeline Moon MP.

It runs through to 31 May.


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