Frantic Assembly The Unreturning UK Tour

REVIEW | The Unreturning | UK Tour

Frantic Assembly bring the trauma of war to the forefront of their powerful production The Unreturning. It’s a production that captures the physical and mental effect of war through parallel stories across three eras.

Performed by a cast of four, it is slick and smoothly acted to tell four distinct stories. A traumatised young man in the First World War, a discharged soldier from Afghanistan fighting allegations in the press, and a refugee from the future in 2026 on a mission to find his brother in a Britain hit by civil war. We watch these men’s lives unfold as they search desperately for the life they left behind.

Jordan’s language is compelling as you are consumed by 100 minutes of poetic language, emotive storytelling and exhilarating physical theatre. The show is built with monologues, duologues and ensemble performances charged by Frantic Assembly’s renowned physicality.

The male cast bring expressive characterisation to a multitude of roles, both male and female. Joe Layton takes on the angry and frustrated soldier whose explosive temper causes him a lot of problems. Yet he also manages to slip into the sympathetic and softly spoken Rose. Jared Garfield entangles the complexity of PTSD with his troubled character and Jonnie Riodan brings a sense of real vulnerability as he poses some important questions about attitudes towards refugees. 

The simplistic set designed by Andrzej Goulding works seamlessly as the shipping container centre stage moves around to transform into everything from a tunnel, to an obstacle course and even a night club. The twists and turns of the shipping container mirror time ticking forwards and backwards as we are transported across the ages into the lives of these young soldiers.

This is the second Anna Jordan play I’ve seen and the writing is just exceptional. Drawing on interviews with former soldiers, the characters are complex as the audience get an insight into their minds. Jordan’s slick language builds intensity until the curtain goes down. As we glide through 1913, 2013 and the future, the themes and emotions tackled don’t change at all.

The Unreturning is a thought-provoking piece of theatre performed by a strong cast that draw out the potency of the universal emotions through poignant physicality. 

★★★★

The Unreturning is currently touring across the UK, tickets and information can be found here.

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