A comic caricature of American office life, set in the propaganda office of the US Military during the Second World War, How to Sell a War is witty, humorous and poignant; the perfect platform for showcasing new talent from Bedlam Theatre.
After a year of more thought provoking productions, it was refreshing to have the light-hearted comedy of How to Sell a War, with its highly ironic and witty original script written by Robert Batson. The dialogue was sharp and highly entertaining, and the actors all managed the script very competently and delivered with dry enthusiasm throughout.
The energy never seemed to drop at any point due to the regular interruptions and complete stage ransacking from top-dog Bill Donovan (Caleb Warren-Smith) and his henchmen, leaving the characters on their toes, albeit doing so with an entertaining reluctance, and having to clean up after them. In terms of staging, the set was rather simple but effective nonetheless, comprising of three desks, a piano, and various other vintage props, helping the scene appear more authentic.
The use of video projections, littered throughout the play, were wonderfully nostalgic and tied the play together. They were used between scenes to show old wartime footage of Hitler, and during, to show clips of Disney animations and commercials of the songs Warbery and the team created for the war effort.
There were some issues with line delivery and characterisation from some, such as Donovan and Elmer Davis (Domi Ucar). Occasionally projection and articulation were sacrificed for the development of the characterisation, rather disappointingly, as it meant that much of the witty lines, and even some important information for the plot, was lost.
Overall the cast stood up to the task of taking a caricature play and giving it poignancy. In the best scene of the play, where Percy Winner (Lewis McDonald) and Maurice Pierce (Cassandra Sawtell) stand up to their hypocritical boss Robert Sherwood (Johnny Ross-Tatum), my attention was held, and my interest piqued. Notable performances came from Edward Meltzer, Sawtell, and Thomas Jaffrey for their triple act, working together effortlessly to produce some fantastic comedic moments.
This was an entertaining and exciting performance from Bedlam and a testament to the success of original writing coming out of the theatre company. Brimmer-Beller and his team have truly succeeded in producing an amusing piece of work embodying a period of conflict.
Photo courtesy of the Edinburgh University Theatre Company