Multiple Casualty Incident

The Yard

When playing nurse and patient gets out of hand. Sami Ibrahim (of Royal Court Two Palestinians Go Dogging fame) explores the culture of aid, grief, and international culpability, all over Tesco meal deal sandwiches.

I will explain the latter one, don’t worry. Rosie Elnile’s set is like a cake slice of a training room. Think of the drab liminal spaces where you suffered through fire warden, speed, or drink driving awareness courses depending on your devil may care level. Naturalistic, open-sided and therefore flexible with entrances and exits which comes to be important.

Sarah (Rosa Robson) is in her late 30’s, training to be an aid worker, she meets Khaled (Luca Kamleh Chapman) a grieving vulnerable younger man doing the very same. Girl meets boy at the workplace, they connect, it’s all very eyes-across-the-water-cooler with adorable scenes of lunch swaps (coyly munching on a hoisin duck wrap is perhaps the most realistic flirting scene I have ever seen). Around this nexus bubbles Dan (Peter Corboy) our Irish-gay-comic-relief (a little underused but very effective) and Nicki (Mariah Louca) the trainer, struggling with a sick sister, and a managerial crisis rocking everyone’s conviction.

The first act is punchy, Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s direction is snappy, sharp, and sensational. The everyday scenes of preparation for international crisis are dissected by mini blackouts and Morse code-like bleeping thumps. We judder forward minutes, hours and days, keeping us on our toes working out how much time has elapsed. The clicking into position of the actors is clockwork in its precession. Robson and Kamleh Chapman nurture a delicious and faltering love affair. Corboy serves as antagonist and laugh maker and Louca is our stately matriarch. For a one-act play, this would have been more than enough. Dutifully real, but engaging enough to keep us entertained. After all is there anything better than watching the first days of love, blushing, awkward, and painfully self-aware? Before everything gets soppy, habitual, and what-are-we-doing-for-dinner based.

Regrettably, there is a second act. An evil twin waiting in the wings, ready to bumble in. The idea is admittedly an imaginative one. Very much like Jean Genet’s famous play Maids, the nurses start to lose a sense of reality as they expand the courses required (and filmed) roll play scenarios. Toot sweet they are sucked into a make-believe world of sexual exploitation, political upheaval, and personal vs playacting revelation. Technically the use of live feed cameras, bright ring lights and linked large screens is a novel way to present a different reality. It’s just this “blurring” of fact and fiction is asking too much of the set, cast, and story as a whole. We reel from the metaphorical crack pipe, with everything making less and less sense. Confused, and dazed we bumbled on, feeling less and less invested in the story.

Yet can we blame Ibrahim? The temptation of the surreal and allegorical proves to be too much. Instead of heightening the piece however, it clouds the crescendo in a dense and impenetrable fog. All involved especially Robson are believable, likeable and until the end understandable. In an attempt to show the limits of the political need to help, Multiple Casualty Incident instead shows us the limits of theatre and the unfortunate ease of losing an audience on route.

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