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Theatre review: Ten Tiny Toes

Vinny Lawrenson Woods and audience are moved by Esther Wilson's compassionate tale of war

Published on June 20th 2008.

Theatre review: Ten Tiny Toes

WITH a huge video screen as the backdrop to a battlefield and a living room, the Everyman stage sets the scene for an unnervingly frank account of the complexities of war.

In 2004, Fusilier Gordon Gentle was killed in an attack in Basra. Inspired by his mother Rose’s campaign to take the Government to court over the legality of the Iraq War, Ten Tiny Toes tells the story of mothers and families who have lost sons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Joe Shipman
outshone everybody with a performance that oozed
humour and
youthful innocence

Written by Esther Wilson, the lead writer for the Everyman and Playhouse’s Unprotected, and winner of the Amnesty International Award for Freedom of Speech, the story starts with the return of serving soldier Michael Kent to his home. Here the play's slow burning fuse is lit, which smoulders until its dynamic cliff-hanger at the interval.

Lisa Parry’s emotional portrayal of stoic and loving mum Gill brought tears to the audience's eyes, as she and husband Mike deal with their younger son's decision to follow his brother and enlist. As images of war are projected from the back of the stage, we start to understand the effect of propaganda on the dynamics of ordinary families.

Maya Johnson (Joanna Bacon), a campaigner who finds herself in trouble with the law because she read out names of dead soldiers near Parliament, is the focus of the second half.

Gill becomes politicised while Mike, in a heart wrenching performance by Barry McCormick, deteriorates.

David Lyons is convincing and menacing as soldier Michael on his own downward spiral of grief and anger, but Joe Shipman, who plays younger brother Chris, outshone everybody with a performance that oozed confidence, humour and youthful innocence.

Quoted is Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est: “It’s an old lie that it is sweet and right to die for your country”.

Wilson’s writing starkly highlights this reality of war which is not as romantic as the Army recruiting videos suggest or as honourable as politicians insist. Only when we see the effect of war on a single family do we start to realise the enormity of it and how class, poverty and youth can be held against you when a government starts its latest recruitment drive.

With a patient build up of tension and an authentic cast of characters, this formidable piece of theatre creeps up and hits you like a punch to the stomach.


Ten Tiny Toes: Everyman Theatre, until July 5. 0151 709 4776.

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