Monday, 2 November 2015

The Monument - Colleen Wagner. Finborough Theatre, May 2003

I fell in love with this play; it's a heartrending tale of a young soldier who has been convicted of war crimes.  I was totally absorbed by the tale of a soldier following orders and becoming a scapegoat for his crimes. Even more compelling was that his rescuer is a woman from the side he fought against, but what he doesn't know is that she wants him freed because she thinks he knows the whereabouts of her missing daughter.

The play revolves around two characters, Stetko (Tom Burke) a nineteen year old soldier, and Mejra (Marella Oppenheim) a 50 year old woman. Stetko is strapped to an electric chair. He is reminiscing about his past, the acts of rape he committed and why he was compelled to do so. The scene has been set, we know who he is and why he is there, and then Mejra enters. Stetko believes she is his executioner, when in reality she could be his salvation. Mejra tells him he can be released on the condition that for the rest of his life he will do as she says.

It is quite interesting that this condition has been put to him. He is only in this situation because he has carried out the orders of others in his past; their orders led to his destruction, these orders may lead to his redemption. Stetko believes he has nothing to lose by leaving with Mejra, however in reality he has just become her prisoner, she sets him to hard labour and carries out beatings, making him subservient.

Stetko was a yobbish soldier, one who found it easier to rape and kill women rather disobey orders. He acts like a child cowering and covering his ears so he can't hear Mejra stating that his girlfriend was raped and murdered with all those other girls he knew about. He doesn't want to face the truth, he can't handle it but Mejra makes him face his past, to remember what he has done and to whom, to ensure he visualises their faces.

The themes generated in the play are graphic and distressing and you do feel drained by the end of it; but the play is beautifully written, and there are genuine moments of tenderness shown between Stetko and Mejra. It is gripping and opens up the debate of man's inhumanity in the time of war. It shows the misery of war, that no-one is ever a winner, there are losers on both sides and there is no justice for anyone.

It was a powerful and gripping play and one I would really like to have seen being performed.

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