Reviewed by Beth Adams (L6, A)
G.A.S was commissioned by College and written by Katherine MacInnes as a way to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and to remember the Old Cheltonians who fought and fell for their country. Set in the Lower Gym, it tells the story of two OCs; George Raymond Dallas Moor is seeking absolution for shooting some men in the First World War to stem a retreat that would have meant certain death for a whole battalion. He was successful and, for the action as a whole, he was awarded a VC. Victoria Cross, a female soldier from the next century, is similarly unsure about whether her award for courageous restraint in Afghanistan is justified. Both help the other out of a cycle of uncertainty by moving through time to witness the events in question in their old school.
It was not only a great portrayal of the horrors of war but also, and more subtly, an exploration of the hard decisions that soldiers have to make in conflict. The storyline, which captures the experiences of two soldiers from two wars, was very thought provoking and gave a strong message about the nature of courage. The setting of the play in Lower Gym helped to highlight College’s strong connections with the Armed Forces and the Old Cheltonians who have served and who have paid a terrible price.
The sound and lighting crew did a great job portraying the sights and sounds of war. I also liked the fact that the audience sat so close to the stage; this really helped them to engage with the cast and gave a sense of the dramatic immediacy of conflict and the intensity of having to make a life-saving decision in a moment. One member from the audience added, “The play was amazing, it is so clever with all the intertwined stories and it really felt like we were in the middle of all the action with the setting.” Teamwork was of central importance; the cast did a great job to knit this fast-moving and complex narrative together. What is more, the fact that the cast came from across the year groups made this achievement all the more impressive. Thought provoking, punchy and poignant, it was an important and memorable evening for College.