by John Harvey
William Ivory’s ‘Bomber’s Moon‘, originally, I think, staged at the Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham, is currently – and triumphantly – playing at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, north London.
Based on the experiences of Ivory’s father, who had served in 50 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command during WW2, the play is a two-hander, with James Bolam playing former RAF gunner Jimmy, now battling against old age and infirmity, and still haunted by the WWII bombing raids in which he took part, and Steve John Shepherd as his care assistant David, a young man whose own problems become increasingly clear as the piece develops.
The play is expertly structured and written, grabbing the audience initially with the wonderfully apt yet surprising coarseness of its humour (an Ivory speciality), before involving them more and more deeply in the characters’ lives and turning their expectations again and then again once before the nicely wrought and tender conclusion.
Under Matt Aston’s sure-footed direction, both Bolam and Shepherd seize their opportunites with both hands – Bolam’s timing is especially finely tuned – and it’s a long while since I heard people laughing so loud and unrestrainedly in the theatre. At the end, the audience, which had clearly been wholly involved throughout, were not just applauding loudly, but on their feet, cheeering.
‘Bomber’s Moon’ continues at the Park Theatre until May 11th.