Serjeant Musgrave's Dance

FRANK CLIFF Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds


First seen at the Royal Court in 1959 where it survived despite hostile reviews, this production by the Oxford Stage Company is the first national revival of John Arden's play for about 20 years. And what better time could there be for a play about the brutality and futility of war?

Sean Holmes's production makes everything as clear as can be in this complex play and the excellent cast delivers Arden's gritty prose which becomes verse in moments of heightened tension with great gusto.

There were powerful performances from Edward Peel in the central role of Musgrave, Billy Carter as the vulnerable, half-crazed soldier Sparky, and, stepping in at a moment's notice, Katy Cavanagh as the disturbed whore, Annie.

Initially labelled as a difficult play, I would guess that the audience of predominantly young people were closer to something which provides a timely reminder that violence cannot be ended by violence. As the soldier, Attercliff, remarks: “To end by its own rules, no bloody good.”

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