In Loyal Company at Pleasance Courtyard – Beside is a powerful solo performance work by any standards. However, when you take into account that this story of survival in a WWII Japanese Internment camp in Thailand as soldier Arthur Robinson and his captives are used as forced labour to build a railroad is a true story, then everything moves into a different zone of reality and emotions.
David William Bryan is superb in his portrayal of the happy-go-lucky, pre-soldier young man Arthur Robinson, and a tight script by David William Bryan and Sascha Moore paints a not too often seen scene of how everyday people at home were affected by the war in small ways up to bombing raids. It is, however, when Arthur Robinson decides it is his time and duty to enlist in the army that our story really starts. From an initial “safe place” in India, Arthur and his fellow soldiers are moved to Singapore to deal with the new enemy, the Imperial Japanese Army. Singapore, a jewel in the crown of The British Empire, is considered impregnable, so it is with surprise and astonishment to everyone that it falls so swiftly to the invading Japanese Army.
The war-front with the Japanese in the Far East is a subject that is too rarely touched upon, and most WWII stories concentrate on the European Front. This story is a bold one, and a brave one, as in my opinion, there has been some political will over the decades to pretend that this war was never fought, or that prisoners – soldiers, civilians, men, women and children - were ever treated in a way that broke every known convention for the humane treatment of prisoners of war. David William Bryan is superb here not only in his portrayal of Arthur, but also the whole stage of the story from family and friends in Liverpool, fellow soldiers, fellow prisoners and eventually being one of the very few to survive the conditions of the internment camps and return home to his family. This is a tale of survival against all odds with some very bittersweet twists and dark endings.
To date, even after over 70 years of time passing, there never has been a proper official response, or anything approaching an apology from the Japanese government for how Arthur and many others were treated, and although for some, this story may be uncomfortable to watch, it is a true story, and history cannot be ignored or white-washed. The important thing now is how you tell the story of these terrible events and view the story as it unfolds. This story needs to be told, but not out of anger, hatred, or retribution, but as a warning to all just how inhumane man can be to his fellow men, women and children, and in telling this story hopefully try and make sure that such events are never allowed to happen again.
In Loyal Company is a must see show, but you really have to leave it thinking very hard on some matters. It is definitely not a casual afternoon’s drop in.
Review by Tom King
In Loyal Company
Pleasance Courtyard - Beside
Country: United Kingdom - England
Group: Lab Rats