Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Distant War Far Too Close for Comfort; for Some North-East Women, the War in Iraq Is Too Close for Comfort. Emma Paterson Talks to the Director of Motherland, Which Premieres Tonight

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Distant War Far Too Close for Comfort; for Some North-East Women, the War in Iraq Is Too Close for Comfort. Emma Paterson Talks to the Director of Motherland, Which Premieres Tonight

Article excerpt

Byline: Emma Paterson

A NUMBER of plays have focused on the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Steve Gilroy's Motherland is the first to pull focus and examine the effects back home on the family and friends of British servicemen.

The play at Newcastle's Live Theatre dramatises conversations carried out with 12 local women whose worlds have been thrown into turmoil.

The interviews were compiled by Gilroy, who moved to the region two years ago to head the Northumbria Live Academy, a postgraduate school for young actors run by Northumbria University and Live Theatre.

Gilroy says the idea behind the play was to fill the blanks left by media coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Looking at the local news it really struck me that the region seemed to have suffered a disproportionate amount of deaths and injuries in both conflicts, so I wanted to reflect that."

Motherland 's director explains how he spent several months recording conversations with the lovers, mothers, wives and friends of just a few of the several thousand soldiers who have served in both wars.

After putting the play together, Gilroy arranged for the actors and their real life characters to meet up. "I wanted the actors to be able to mimic their mannerisms and speech patterns when speaking their lines," he says.

Among those taking part in the project is Janice Murray, from Sunderland, whose 18-year-old son, Michael Tench, served in the 2nd Battalion, the Light Infantry in southern Iraq.

In the play, Janice's character recalls with bitter irony how she'd discouraged her son from pursuing a possible career in football.

"I said, it's a short-lived career, son, it'll only last 18 months."

Eighteen months was the exact amount of time Private Tench served in the Army before being hit by a roadside bomb earlier this year. He's one of the youngest British soldiers to have been killed in Iraq.

The grief of Janice Murray is shared by several other of Motherland 's characters. So, too, is her sense of shock and utter surprise. Several times we are led to question the extent to which the women back home fully understood the nature of modern warfare. …

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