fine national touring production is at the Oxford Playhouse this
week, My Boy Jack, written by and starring David Haig as Rudyard
focus of the play is on the inherent tension within Kipling between
his almost slavish and jingoistic desire for all fit young men (including
his boy Jack) to be conscripted into the First World War, and the
hurt and emptiness felt when Jack is, inevitability, struck down
mere days after arriving at the Western Front.
performance of David Haig is one of the finest seen on an Oxford
stage in recent memory. Playing Kipling as far softer than expected
opened up an entirely new side of the great mans personality. It
is important to realise that whilst one may find a view held abhorrent,
it does not necessarily follow that the holder of that view is beyond
all hope as a human being. This is the case with Haig's Kipling.
A scene where Kipling gives a fervent speech imploring parents to
send their children into war (whilst making clever comparisons with
21st century eurosceptic politicians) is counterbalanced by a spellbinding
flashback scene, where Kipling is telling both his children a bedtime
story. Haig is able to draw the finest line between Kipling's desire
to protect his family and his country, and by doing so gives a virtuoso
performance that few could achieve.
supporting cast led by Belinda Lang as Caroline Kipling and Ben
Silverstone as Jack Kipling all give first-rate performances. Rosanna
Lavelle plays Elsie Kipling as the voice of modernity in a Victorian
family, and as such is at the centre of many of the more interesting
moments within the Kipling household.
only scene that lets the play down slightly is the final scene of
the first half, set on the Western Front. The scene change beforehand
is magnificently menacing but the scene itself is marred by slight
overacting and one of the worst Irish accents in living memory,
courtesy of Chris Moran.
however is a minor criticism of what is otherwise a thoroughly excellent
production and a credit to both David Haig the actor and David Haig
My Boy Jack is at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday May 29th.
For ticket information phone 01865 305305.