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Based on a true story Warheads, written by Taz Skylar and Ross Berkeley Simpson and directed by Toby Clarke, opens with the energy and chaos of rambunctious youth. Miles, played by Skylar, and his best friend Mory, played by Hassan Najib, are military reservists about to depart on their first deployment to Afghanistan. While Miles has yet to inform his girlfriend Tena, played by Klariza Clayton, of their intentions, Mory has already been dumped by his girlfriend for agreeing to go to war. The play threads through multiple time lines, portraying Miles’s various lives from: pre military, pre-war, post-war, and toward the end, post-PTSD diagnosis. The events in Miles’s various lives depict a teenage boy at the dawn of manhood as he rapidly transforms into a veteran soldier suffering from the traumas of war.
What Warheads captures well is the naïveté of young soldiers and the strain that modern civilian life thrusts upon them. The play shines when revealing how unprepared both Miles and Mory are for life after war and how their loved ones have no idea how to deal with the men who have returned in their altered states. Miles passes much of his time playing Call of Duty, eating pizza, and trying to make love to Tena, but after his first deployment to Afghanistan, nothing feels the same. His anger clouds both his judgment and his waking reality, forcing him to see a therapist, played by Sophie Couch, to deal with the symptoms of PTSD and the violence he perpetrates against others. In a poem written by Tena’s roommate Coby, played by Joseph Connolly, the line “He was broken beyond repair” becomes a chant at the end of the play, directed first at Miles, who struggles with the symptoms of PTSD and the will to seek treatment with his therapist, and then more accurately aimed at Mory, who refuses to return to Afghanistan with Miles for a second deployment.
Wonderful performances are given by Craig Fairbrass, who plays Captain Deex, as the voice of the hardened soldier and a paternal symbol for Miles when his reality spins out of control, and by Connolly, whose depiction of the comedic gay roommate Coby, brings a welcome break from the drama between Miles and everyone he interacts with. Warheads offers a glimpse into the lives of young men who choose to become soldiers because very little choice exists for them at home and reveals the, sometimes, painful outcome that greets these men when they return—not everyone makes it back, but those who do are not truly out of danger.
4 out of 5 stars