Doctor Scroggy’s War

Published September 18, 2014

What’s it all about?

Well, not Dr Scroggy really. Everyone’s War would probably be a more apt title, but that’s nowhere near as catchy.

Howard Brenton’s new World War I-set play follows working class lad turned Oxford undergrad turned army officer Jack Twigg. His journey takes him from the champagne-quaffing heart of military strategy to the Battle of Loos and on to Dr Harold Gillies’ hospital, which led the way in facial reconstruction. In case you’re concerned about spoilers, this is not giving too much away as Twigg actually points out that we all know what will happen to him.

From Twigg and his family to fellow soldiers and Field Marshalls, Brenton shows the widely different reactions to, and effects of, World War I.

Who’s in it?

An entire ensemble that, without exception, has perfectly grasped the intricacies of performing at the Globe.

You’d expect this from James Garnon, who imbues the oar-clutching Gillies with boundless charisma and irresistible genius, and Will Featherstone, who finds the despair and almost inexplicable thirst for combat, despite its atrocities, in Twigg. They both perform at the Globe so regularly they’re basically part of the furniture.

But newcomers including Katy Stephens, who lights up the stage both as Twigg’s delightfully dappy mother and as a Queen with both stateliness and twinkle, and Catherine Bailey, whose Penelope Wedgewood moves from fun-loving posh totty to battle-scarred pacifist, could equally have been performing in the idiosyncratic auditorium for years.

What should I look out for?

Paul Rider and Dickon Tyrrell conversing in Franglais and Englench as the heads of their respective armed forces, then having a spot of bubbly to celebrate.

The faces of the audience when they realise what’s about to be smacked directly at them at the show’s opening.

Brenton’s vivid description of Twigg’s facial injuries and how he received them, delivered by three unshockable volunteer nurses.

More gallows humour than a stand-up show at Tyburn.

In a nutshell?

Heartfelt, chilling and hilarious, Doctor Scroggy’s War finds the personal tales amid the swirling horror of war and the birth of plastic surgery.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@KHPearse Doctor Scroggy’s War at @The_Globe – a completely delicious way to spend an evening.

@LukeWHarris Bravo to @PaddyPaddyHolt for the superb Doctor Scroggy’s War @The_Globe.

Will I like it?

Despite tackling horrific subject matter, Brenton’s latest play is filled with warmth, humour, humanity and characters whose stories and reactions are compelling. It takes something to mix heart-stopping scenes of trench warfare with belly laughs, but Brenton, director John Dove and his cast pull it off with aplomb. If you can stomach its truthfulness, Doctor Scroggy’s War is an entertaining, laughter-filled evening.

Doctor Scroggy’s War is playing at Shakespeare’s Globe until 10 October. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.