Six actors, a wooden bench, a wheelchair and a white screen are the only components of Pink Mist, yet the performance feels like a production with sumptuous scenery such is the passion and energy with which it is delivered.
The show tells the story of three young men from Bristol who join the army and are sent to war in post 9/11 Afghanistan. During two and a quarter spellbinding hours we learn the fate of the lads and the effects the conflict has on their loved ones back home.
With much of it told in rhyme, the story switches between present day and flashbacks led by an extraordinary performance from Phil Dunster, who plays Arthur, the 20 year old who persuades his friends Taf and Hads to leave their humdrum jobs and become fighters on the other side of the world.
With no other props than those described above the cast use body movement combined with impressive lighting to recreate scenes ranging from a harbourside nightclub to the battlefields of Afghanistan.
Bristol Old Vic has removed some of the stalls seating to bring the stage up close and personal to the audience which just adds to the intense drama.
For us Bristolians, Pink Mist is full of plenty of local references that made me chuckle but this is far from being a low key play only for a south west audience.
Other reviewers have described it as an important piece of work and I fully understand why. It deals with the impact of a conflict on ordinary people that is still fresh in our minds and continuing today. It’s not anti-war as such, I felt we were all left to make up on our minds on that one, but it shows how world politics and decisions made by global leaders can change the lives of people far removed from the problems the military action is trying to resolve.
Bristol Old Vic is celebrating its 250th birthday this year with a stellar line-up including Jeremy Irons and Timothy West. But even those world class actors will have to work hard to deliver a performance to knock the socks off Pink Mist, an evening of theatre that will stay with me for a long time.
We urge you to see it.
Update (March 2021): Pink Mist is available to stream online until 22 April 2021.