Johnny Got His Gun, Southwark Playhouse, theatre review: 'Harrowingly poignant'
Jack Holden delivers a stunning tour de force as young US soldier Joe Bonham
Monday 02 June 2014
In this stage adaptation of Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel, Jack Holden delivers a stunning tour de force as Joe Bonham, the young American soldier who fought in the First World War and comes round in a hospital bed to discover that he has lost his arms, legs, ears, eyes, mouth and nose.
The play, a sixty minute monologue directed with great tact and expressiveness by David Mercatali, is one-man howl of protest at war and the indifference of the military top brass. Reminding you at times of Wilfred Owen crossed with Beckett, it makes a fiercely admonitory contribution to the current centenary commemorations.
The piece operates by harrowingly poignant incongruity. What we see is the handsome, fresh-faced youth in khaki who enlisted. What we feel, thanks to Holden's virtuosic, visceral performance, is the active mind, trapped and unable to communicate in the amputated torso, as Joe shifts between recognition of the horror, the glow of memories, and the desperate discipline of self-imposed routines to guard against going mad.
When he eventually makes himself understood by bashing out Morse code with his head against the bedstead, he's an embarrassment that must be suppressed with his angry desire to live a useful life on tour as an anti-war exhibit, uniquely well-placed to 'speak' on behalf of the fallen. Unforgettable.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he'd killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
The Fall, series 2, episode 3 – TV review: The Gillian Anderson drama is starting to push the realms of plausibility, but who cares?
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque