Chips Hardy’s Blue on Blue works its way through the myriad meanings of the military phrase that denotes the accidental harming of one’s own forces (what can also be called ‘friendly fire’). Often seen as an unavoidable part of war and combat, blue-on-blue incidents speak to the tragic yet sometimes inescapable acts which make casualties of friends, of allies, and of ourselves.
It begins with the very real friendly fire in Iraq that leaves brash and stubborn Moss (Darren Swift) without legs. From a visually striking beginning, Burton’s direction and Hardy’s script veer away from direct combat and focus in on the aftershock and rehabilitation. His nephew Carver (Daniel Gentely), a nervous and anal-retentive thief on probation, helps take care of Moss in the small apartment, and their relationship becomes one of deep loyalty amidst the often hilarious barrage of insults they shower on each other. When Marta (Ida Bonnast), Moss’s Hungarian weekly helper, enters the field and cultivates a love interest with Carver, issues of self-harm (a kind of blue on blue), dependency, and rehabilitation move to the frontlines of the action.
Originally performed ten years ago at Theatre 503, Hardy’s play retains its hilarity with sharp tongues and cutting witticisms in this Skullcap Collective production. Swift, a former serviceman who lost his legs in Northern Ireland, colours Moss with a gruffness that sheds to reveal real tenderness and compassion. Empathetic Moss recognizes Carver’s feelings of being trapped and through this mirroring is able to support Carver through his less visible but equally traumatic wounds.
There are some misfires in Burton’s production: long set changes distract from the action yet do not much enrich the overall atmosphere. Bonnast and Gentely are commendable, but overall the actors lack a strong hold on the text; the dialogue gets jumbled and lines are unstable. In many ways, Burton’s direction would benefit from further exploring the themes laid out in the text and offering more visual sustenance to complement the script.
Ultimately, like the military phrase itself, Blue on Blue is about relationships. It’s about the ways in which we can betray those who are closest to us, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes instrumentally. All of this can also be true of how we treat ourselves. Good intent can always result in catastrophic consequences, but underlining Hardy’s play is the belief that the steadfastness of friendship lingers long after the theatre of war.
Blue on Blue is on until 14th May 2016. Click here for tickets.