Radio review: Missing in Action, Radio 4

Clare Lizzimore and Sam Troughton clearly have an affinity for working with each, having recently collaborated on Mike Bartlett’s Bull (which she directed) and the Royal Court’s Mint (which she wrote). So it seems only natural that the pair should reunite for her debut radio play Missing In Action. A busy work week means this is going up too late for you to still hear it (radio programmes remain on the iPlayer for a week) so I’ll keep it brief but sweet enough that they’ll hopefully replay it soon.

Perhaps bravely – with the war commemorations this year – but certainly wisely, Missing In Action focuses on the dark aftermath of conflict, the yawning abyss that soldiers can feel on their return from war to a world that has continued without them and to which they feel singularly ill-equipped. The play starts off with Natalie scarcely believing her eyes that the husband who had been declared missing in action in Helmand Province is shopping in a local supermarket. He doesn’t know who she is, says that he is someone else, but something is triggered and a painful process is initiated which sweeps up all around him.

It is powerfully evocative writing and delivered excellently in Jonquil Panting and Claire Grove’s well-cast production. Troughton does tortured angst so well that he is the perfect fit for Daniel (one is tempted to imagine Lizzimore may have written the role with him in mind…) but he is matched by equally intense performances from Anna Madeley as the wife who finds that he is not quite the husband she remembers and from Liz White as the other woman in his life, brittle and angry at a horrifically believable situation which shines a light on what we ask of our military service folk and asks searching questions about the support mechanism society has in place for them, and their loved ones, post-war.

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