The Straits is a play set on the small British colony of Gibraltar around the time of the Falklands war. The play centres on a group of three friends – Jock who is Scottish, Darren who is English and had recently moved to Gibraltar and Doink who is English born and Fiercely patriotic. Before the play began there was no music playing and dimmed blue lighting adorned the sloped cross-like stage. Behind the stage was a massive projection screen, and at downstage-left and right there were small staircases leading down to here the front row were sitting. The play began with the three boys performing an elaborate abstract dance in which they removed their clothes, it culminated in the gang standing in their swimming trunks with Doink explaining the way things are run around Gibraltar, how Spicks (Spaniards) are treated by the English inhabitants.
There was no real variation of lighting or music throughout, with the director opting to have two main “modes”. The first was when dialogue was being spoken and the next was at scene changes when the lights were dimmed and massive letters appeared on the screen as if from a typewriter stating the date and time, this was accompanied by typewriter key sounds – this gave off a military feel. Scene changes also feature the abstract dancing to move about the stage, involving many rolls down and up the moderately slanted stage.
This beginning was powerful enough to sustain the audiences’ attention, no small feat considering the lengthy period of dancing that took place. The start of the dialogue laid a firm foundation for the play, clearly engaging the audience from the off. We find out that Doink’s brother is in the Navy and that he is due to be posted to the Falklands, we can see the tensions between the Spanish residents and the British, we can also see the strong relationship between Jock and Doink, and gather that Doink enjoys showing Darren the “ropes” – this probably stems from the guidance he received from his brother when he was young and is eager to imitate his brother in this responsible position; his desire to imitate his brother is a dominant theme throughout the play. Jock is definitely the submissive in the tight knit relationship yet gets away with a lot more with Doink than a lot of other people would, still he is always the one to back down.
After this beginning we are introduced to Darren’s sister Tracy a strong willed character that has great protective instincts for her brother Darren. Tracy puts Darren down quite a bit and playfully jokes about his below-average intelligence and whiney attitude. Darren tells Tracy about his new friends and she puts them down also which angers Darren. I believe this piece of dialogue between the siblings was poorly done and underdeveloped – a far cry from the exciting beginning. First off, Darren and Tracy were sitting Downstage-right which obscured them from my view and about 1/3 of the whole audiences’ view, also their dialogue wasn’t as engaging as that in the first 20 minutes – it lacked the interest shown between the friends. From what happens in the rest of the play you need to see a stronger relationship between the two set up right from the start – they tried to put across a portrayal of exterior dislike and interior sibling love, but all that come across was a jumbled mix of both which left the me confused, one minute they looked like enemies next they looked like “Tally-ho” Enid Blyton characters who were the best of friends. This lack of consistency between the two principal characters was frustrating and left me ultimately confused.
The next, main point in the play was ‘Anti-English day’ which had been talked about constantly through the play. ‘Anti-English day’ is when the Spanish gangs on the island rebel for one day on an annual basis. The scene opens with Doink and Jock speaking about how Darren has ‘bottled it’ and has not come to fight; Doink is infuriated by this and vows to make Darren pay for his cowardice. After a long passionate speech about his wishes to join the marines and fight like his brother and his forced assurance from Jock that he too would join, they head off to school to face the Spanish aggressors. This part of the play was a joy to watch and the characterisation of the Dominant Doink was to a tee. He meant every line and made the rant his own – encapsulating his audience. He didn’t falter once on the path to the eventual crescendo of fury, holding the silence in a theatre full of rebellious teenagers. The tension and mounting worry for Darren was scintillating and exciting, the worried glances thrown at Doink by submissive Jock when he wasn’t looking were great and made the piece. Jock trying to calm Doink down by saying that Darren may have been kept in by his mum only added fuel to the flame. This was one of the memorable moments of an outstanding play.
After ‘Anti-English day’ we see Doink revelling in the carnage that occurred; rapturously accounting the stabbing of a Spanish boy. We can see that Jock is very shaken by the events but is trying to keep a brave face on and share Doink’s excitement. This part of the play was very good – it showed that Doink only thought he could achieve the reverence of his brother through violence, it sort of acted as homage to his absent older brother. The scene ends with Tracey coming on looking for Doink, she tells him that the Argentineans have sunk the boat his brother was serving on. When the scene begins we can see that Doink is ecstatic he has held up the tradition of fighting back. Once Doink has stopped recounting the events he turns to Jock and taunts him for going at it half heartedly and for empathising with the Spanish boys who he plays Football with. Jock tries to shrug off this comment by saying that he thought he would have been ambushed but it is apparent he isn’t as passionate about the whole tradition of it as Doink is. This scene cements the audiences’ doubts of Jock and Doink’s likenesses and true brotherhood. After the occurrence of Tracy and the mind-blowing message she gives Doink, the play pivots.
Later on we see that Doink has prepared a fitting punishment for Darren in the shape of a military style run across 5 miles of Gibraltar in midday when the sun is hottest. We see that Doink and Jock are tired but able to continue; while on the other hand Darren is exhausted after 3 miles and cannot continue. He slumps down and falls onto the ground and starts to moan that he can’t go on and that it’s too hot. Doink sees this as an opportunity to chastise Darren and point out how weak he is physically and mentally. Darren gets angry at the ever-building volume of taunts and tells Doink to “fuck off”. At this Doink runs and kicks him in the mouth and runs ahead, Jock stays and consoles Darren who starts to cry but eventually he runs off too.
This section needed one thing: Realism. It most certainly achieved it. The phrase “suspend your disbelief” was so evident that even when Darren was kicked in the mouth it coaxed a disgusted ‘ooooohh’ from the teenage audience. I loved every second of this part, the pent up pain and sadness from the news of his brother’s death, the suspense of the coming outburst from Doink at the coward Darren, the worried in-between Jock, the acid laced dialogue being spat at Darren and the climatic kick in the head from Doink – It was all golden stuff. This scene was so action packed and suspenseful it made up for the play’s rare shortcomings. I can safely say the audience enjoyed every bit of that scene. This was easily the highlight of the play.
The penultimate scene where Tracey finds Doink and Jock and asks them where her brother has gotten to is for me a classic example of dramatic irony. The scene mixes dramatic irony with a hint of black comedy masterfully. It starts with Doink and Jock speaking abut earlier that day and Jock (who is a little drunk) bravely states that Doink was a little harsh to treat Darren that way. Doink hits back by questioning Jock’s loyalty; this quickly puts a stopper on the conversation. Enter a distressed Tracy who is looking for her little brother, once the boys have lied about the content of their last meeting she sits and samples some of their rum and coke. Jock then suddenly vomits over the side of the cross and passes out.
Doink and Tracy move upstage and start to talk about their future – this leads into an extremely brief sexual encounter in which Tracey cannot even get her trousers off! Darren then walks on stage stating that he’s been watching, Doink goes berserk and calls Tracey a slag and comes clean about giving Darren the clear black eye he has. Darren tries to apologise and vows to make it up to Doink even going as far as congratulating him for the black eye. This scene shows the barriers Doink has put up around him to hide the anguish he feels. It also shows the longing of acceptance on Darren’s part, the way he wants to be part of something. The latter comment will dictate the end of the play.
The Last scene is where Jock and Doink are suiting up to go Octopus hunting when Darren appears on the scene and begs forgiveness from Doink. Doink is starting to get angry again when Darren picks up a harpoon gun and says he’ll prove he’s man enough to be Doink’s friend after some hesitation Darren shoots a Spanish youth hunting for Octopus in the boy’s area. The scene ends with a loud gun shot and the song “God save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols Being sung by a child. The last scene represented a lot. The lengths Darren took to be accepted by Doink, culminated in murder. The realisation by Doink that he has moulded Darren into what he believes is a weak being. Doink’s constant pushing of Darren to become more like him. Jocks frustrated character who sees wrong in his friends actions. The death of Doink’s “invincible” brother brought doubts into Doink’s mind of everything he had ever believed in.
This play has many prominent themes which are all subtly integrated into this wonderfully crafted work. I really enjoyed this play which appeals to all. It is a must-see.