Ten Tiny Toes, Everyman, Liverpool

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The Independent Culture

There's a very intense scene in Esther Wilson's Ten Tiny Toes on which the play turns. Gill, whose two sons served in Iraq, finds her voice and is drawn towards the organisation Military Families Against the War (MFAW). Her husband, numbed by the death of their younger boy, begs his wife to "leave all this bloody madness to someone else out there". You feel desperately for both of them.

Wilson's naturalistic drama, directed by Polly Teale, makes an explosive impact thanks to concentrated acting and the creation of raw, punchy characters.

Michael Kent is the older son, home on leave. When his brother, Chris, joins up, it precipitates a crisis of pent-up contempt so that – when the unthinkable happens – Michael disappears into a guilt-fuelled alienation. Chris (Joe Shipman), as his bloodied, ghostly self, haunts and taunts his brother. It is after the knock at the door that the play has more focused writing, sharper characterisation and engaging arguments.

Wilson has interwoven scenes from MFAW, which features the excellent Joanna Bacon as the mother tolling a bell as she recites names of the dead outside Westminster. The split set takes us from the sofa, from which Lisa Parry's Gill monitors her sons' moves via 24-hour news and the internet, to shadowy scenes of the war zone. "Can we take the emotion out of this, please?" asks one mother in MFAW. In Wilson's searing play, the answer, fortunately, is a resounding "No".