Review: All Quiet on the Western Front, VAULT Festival

Incognito Theatre Company present a powerful and physical take on All Quiet on the Western Front at the VAULT Festival

“We were eighteen years old, and just learning to love the world and being in it, and then we had to shoot it to bits.”

A sensitive and intelligent choice underpins this deeply moving adaptation of Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front by Incognito Theatre Company. Though the narrative follows the experience of German trench warfare, the company speak in English accents and so you can’t help but feel for all of the many millions who were killed, regardless of their nationality.

The five classmates who are recruited from their schoolroom and shipped off to the frontline with just the scarcest bit of shoddy training could be from anywhere – patriotic feeling knows no borders – and the empty promises they receive sound the same in any language. Nobody was home for Christmas. What sustained them, as much as it could, was the camaraderie of their fellow soldiers.

And that is where this production excels. Roberta Zuric’s production makes powerful, pointed use of Zac Nemorin’s choreography to create a highly physical interpretation of the text, full of searching and searing imagery. As with so much of life, the everyday lays alongside the extraordinary, from sitting on the crapper to dealing with lost limbs and unimaginable PTSD, that trauma as much mental as physical.

Key moments shine through: a subtle but key distinction in the translation of dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, subbing in fatherland where we might expect country; the realisation that they’ve never met a Frenchman; the callous disdain of the officer classes. But it is the whole that works so effectively, a compelling reminder that the horrors and indignities of war are suffered by all sides.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
All Quiet on the Western Front is booking at the VAULT Festival until 8th March

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