War is devastating. Sometimes it can define a whole generation to the extent that it becomes the only reference point. Sometimes we consign it to the past, leaving it there, hoping that it remains unearthed so that we do not question the impact such conflicts can have on us. In Lola Arias’ Minefield, The Falklands War is chillingly put on stage and the effects it had on its combatants laid bare.
Arias collaborative piece forms part of 2018 ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival which is currently ongoing at HOME Manchester. In it’s 24th edition, this year’s festival is inspired by Latin America’s history of political turmoil, exploring the revolutionary moments, movements and the artists that have been inspired by these in their challenging works. In Arias Minefield, you do not have a better exponent of the festival’s aim, in which she seeks to challenge not only the issues of the past but very much those that still exist today.
The arts as a medium has always been used to contemplate the ravages of war. Film has often plundered this subject matter, theatre less so. What makes Lola Arias’ even more startling is that it is less of a dramatic piece than a documentary on the conflict itself.
Based on the stories of six Argentine and British veterans this is a warts and all depiction of not just the war itself, but how these individuals found themselves involved in the armed forces and their ensuing stories. The individuals in question are not mere actors either. What really drives home the poignancy of the stories being told are that they come from the veterans themselves.
The chosen participants paint an embryonic picture of the conflict, to what they once were and to what they are now. Lou Armour who became the poster boy for the conflict, when he was captured by Argentine forces in 1982, became a teacher for children with learning difficulties. David Jackson spent the war listening to radio transmission and subsequently became a counsellor. Sukrim Rai was a Gurkha and now works in security. Ruben Otero was a reluctant conscript who survived the sinking of the Belgrano to form a Beatles tribute band. Gabriel Sagastume was by his own admission a mediocre soldier who became a criminal lawyer. Marcelo Vallejo, the enthusiastic enlister is now a triathlon champion.
Their journeys are important in the narrative of what we are presented with. These stories are real. The people telling you these stores are also just as real. What they were, what they did and what they became is the fabric that weaves Arias theatrical analysis on the Falklands War. Moreover, they are voiced and acted by the actual individuals themselves. Such is the superlative execution of their performance that you forget that acting is not their profession.
Arias could also have fallen into the trap of making this interesting project a standard theatre piece, that focuses on the drama of the conflict itself. Yet, it is anything but. It’s innovative mixture of mirth, film, parody, musical interludes and moments of true reflection where two opposing tribes are brought together.
And for me that is Arias greatest achievement in this production, in trying to understand the enemies of past we can perhaps value the friendship of one another in the future!
Verdict: Lola Arias innovative collaborative docu-theatre piece on the Falklands War. A marriage of humour, testimony and moments of reflection all delivered from those that served in the conflict. A must see for any socially conscious theatre goer!