Expect the Unexpected

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, written and performed by Rebecca Crookshank, Dukebox Theatre, Brighton Fringe, Brighton, Wednesday May 11, 6.30pm.

Well, that was shocking. And I mean in a good way.

Rebecca Crookshank has perfected the art of delivering a stunner, the coup de grâce. Smile a lot, be very upbeat, look everyone right in the eyes, and sock it to them when they least expect it.

This is Rebecca's own story of her time in the Royal Air Force, signing up when she was only 17, leaving four years later. She creates her young self as a character: smiles a lot, is very upbeat, loves her job, makes friends, has a promising career. Then she socks it to us. We are definitely not expecting it.

The relationship between the armed forces and the ordinary citizens of any country can be tricky, and requires constant attention, an ongoing process of re-defining and re-imagining. The army, navy and air force need to be the best of us, to uphold our shared moral standards, to fight for these ideals if need be.

The reality is that those who serve live in houses, barracks, bases, not their own, with other people who they wouldn't necessarily choose to live with, in a rigid hierarchical structure, at the top of which is the Royal Family and at the bottom, people like Rebecca.

Rebecca tells the story with just a few costume changes, some canny accessories, a pretty realistic looking machine gun and a selection of really good accents (even Australian), bringing to life, and death, her friends, superiors and, ultimately, tormentors truthfully, but never indulgently. She doesn't sugar coat anything. This isn't a recruitment drive.

This is, though, real. On a round screen, suggesting both radar and target, are projected home movies, films Rebecca took of herself and her colleagues. She plays actual sound recordings of herself, her family and friends. There are many questions: where is her brother now? how did telling this story impact on her life? then? now?

Ultimately this is theatre, and theatre has its own rules. We are confronted by something which happened to her in the past, and these things may still be happening out there somewhere, but what is happening now, here, on the stage in front of us? This is what we really want to know.

The sequences where she re-enacts her hallucinatory visions are the ones which have stayed with me. There is the beginning of something really interesting here, something larger and more important than the events which happened just to her.

Whiskey, Foxtrot, Tango could be the beginning of a whole new story.

Paul Corcoran