Reviewed by Wendy Mildren
Gerald Sibleyras’ play “Wind in the Poplars” renamed “heroes” by Tom Stoppard when he translated it from the French, raises haunting questions about what happens to old soldiers who have not been able to settle back into civilian life. Where do they go and how do they survive?
The Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s production of “Heroes” answered some of these questions with humour and pathos. Andrew Horwood, Michael Croome and Martin Wright played ‘Philippe’, ‘Gustave’ and ‘Henri’ with great understanding of their roles. They extracted the humour but allowed the audience to sense the fear of death and the isolation caused by their inability to face the world outside their retirement home.
‘Gustave’ was a highly decorated soldier for bravery in World War I and came home to find his wife had run off with an apothecary. He had no children and years stretching in front of him. He had entered the retirement home and lived a solitary life, except for his two mates. His real mate was the 200 pound stone dog. He was the leader in their exploits, but was unable to face the world outside his safe walls. Croome pulled this off magnificently.
‘Philippe’ had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his head and was subject to passing out without warning. He had been in the retirement home for 10 years and was terrified of dying. Horwood got the laughs but also allowed the audience to see the terror as the fainting fits became closer and closer together.
‘Henri’ had a shattered leg but of the three of them he was the least isolated as he was still able to go for a ‘constitutional’ and look at other people. Wright played his part well and was able to portray to the audience that he was the most balanced of the trio.
Opening night showed a few duffed lines, but the expertise of the actors glossed over this. The set was superb and deserved a mention. Well done the Rep!