MINEFIELD is a theatre production which brings together veterans of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas war on a stage 8,000 miles from the remembered battlefield. Combining our real lives and stories with fiction and performance to create a piece of theatre directed by Lola Arias.
Sporting lore has it that playing before a home crowd raises morale and improves performance, but I've been worried sick about performing in front of a British audience and veterans of the Falklands War in particular.
I get giddy with excitement when I think about performing in Germany, Greece and Argentina, but I've never felt so alone as I felt during rehearsals in Hackney, London. Ten days later, the day before the opening night at Brighton Dome, a terrible feeling of sadness overwhelmed me and I found myself bursting into tears, which I masked by feigning to read a newspaper.
The anxiety I was feeling did not escape the notice of Lola Arias and her team. Indeed, I had expressed my concerns and worries when I began to complain about the use of the pronoun 'I' instead of 'We'; for men from a military background, talking about the experience of war in the first person is distasteful, if not down right dishonourable. Two days before opening at the Royal Court Theatre, London, I was again beset by a feeling of utter loneliness.
In contrast, I was never so happy as I was during rehearsals in Buenos Aries. When not rehearsing, I was giving talks on the British infantry experience of the Falklands / Malvinas War. I gave presentations to: doctors and unionists working at a pediatric hospital; school children and their teachers, and to a packed theatre audience comprised of Argentine Veterans and their families. A couple of weeks earlier, Malvinas Day 1 April, I was in the little town of San Andres de Giles with David Jackson, where we were confronted by 700 oil torch bearing VGM (Veterano Guerra Malvinas). That evening I met men of 602 and 603 Commandos, men who I was once to sent pursue and to kill, men who shot my friend through the chest during the fighting at Top Malo House. Those men, former enemies, were the first Falklands War veterans I had spoken to since leaving the Royal Marines in 1986. I would occasionally bump into other British veterans but I never discussed the war with them or how I felt about it.
The philosopher George Simmel once wrote in praise of the 'stranger', describing how the stranger is both 'near' and 'far away' at the same time. My relationship to those Malvinas veterans could not be better described. One socially useful role the stranger takes is to be the recipient of 'confession without fear'. I wrote in my diary that Lola was my 'stranger' and I burdened her and Luz Algranti with my 'confessions' of war, of being sexual abused, and my dread of performing in front of the home crowd, of being judged by them. Lola and the production team have responded with openness, kindness and good advice. They are no longer strangers, but trusted friends and colleagues. And today, as I write this short essay, I feel ready to open my arms to the home crowd.
MINEFIELD plays at the Royal Court Theatre until 11 June as part of LIFT '16 https://www.liftfestival.com/ a