Tuesday, 7 October 2014

'Doctor Scroggy's War' - Shakespeare's Globe

This evening we went to see a new play, 'Doctor Scroggy's War' at the Globe. The weather was very different to last week, all chilly and damp and, at one point, rain coming down on the groundlings and extended stage. Luckily we were seated and covered but it didn't keep out the chill.

'Doctor Scroggy's War' is a new play from Howard Brenton specially commissioned by the Globe to commemorate the start of the First World War in 1914. So much has been written about the 'war to end all wars' that it must be very difficult to come up with a new angle and it looks like Howard has managed to do this with his focus on the plastic surgery developments needed to deal with the injuries coming out of the trenches and the developments of modern warfare. And that's where Dr Scroggy comes in.

Every now and then there were elements of 'Oh What A Lovely War' (which was revived at Stratford earlier this year) and Chris mentioned there were shades from Pat Barker's novels but, I suppose, that can't really be helped these days.

It's the story of Jack Twigg, the son of East End working class people who gets a scholarship to Oxford but quits to join the army when war is declared. He mixes with toffs and is promoted to captain in an intelligence unit but really wants to be on the front line. When he manages to get to the front line he is shrapnel-damaged and left for dead until Dr Scroggy's nurses find him, see that he's alive and send him back to Sidcup in Kent to Scroggy's hospital to have his face reconstructed. In the meantime Jack (obviously) falls for the posh bird he has a one night stand with and she then falls for him so there's a love element to ruin before the end. And, of course, who is Scroggy?

The centre of the play is the tale of Howard Gillies, the pioneering plastic surgeon who helped  to reconstruct the faces of soldiers ravaged by shrapnel. He is also Dr Scroggy who roams the wards at night with a bottle of champagne in kilt and ginger beard to cheer up the wounded young men. The sadness is that so many of the men he 'fixes' return to the front to continue the fight. And that's the problem with Jack Twigg, that he feels called to return to the front despite his parents telling him, at the end, that he's half-German himself.

And, I suppose, that's where my problem with the play chrystalised, the whole returning-to-the-front thing. My Granda had his arm shot off when he was aged 19 in that war - the same age as Jack - and I can't imagine him wanting to return. Why on earth would you want to? A lot is made of Jack playing with toy soldiers when he was a boy and idolising the cavalry charge but, having seen the horror of modern warfare, why on earth would he want to go through it again? I've got no idea.

The big positive about this play is that it depicts young women  on the front line as nurses trying to save the wounded. At last, a play that shows the bravery of women in those dark days. Well done for that.

There's a lot more going on in 'Scroggy' than I mention and it's a good play that gets people thinking (or, at least, me thinking). It's only on for another few days so see it if you can before it closes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Finally, an interesting blog. Ever mash the little 'Next Blog' button up top there? Seems all I've gotten for the last long while or so is blogs about peep's kiddies and family stuff; either that or blogs written in Afrikaans, one after the other, then they begin to repeat. Or abandoned blogs. I like to read blogs where writers are fairly up to the current date.

Interesting story, thanks for sharing.