A young Icelandic company perform a new story about growing up in a war-torn town

theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 07 Aug 2017

In a war-torn rural town in an unnamed country, a group of teenagers are being taught to fight for their country, to protect their land from the marauding forces known as 'The Hounds'. Military service is mandatory – although only for men. Context is murky in Anna Iris Petursdottir’s play: attitudes towards protecting women and the need to marry seem deeply old-fashioned, as does the sending of letters instead of using mobile phones, but it’s not clear really where or when it is supposed to be set.

The play is performed by a young company, Rokkur Friggjar Theatre Group, from Iceland, made up of amateur, professional and semi-professional actors between the ages of 14 and 26. Performing in a second language, their English is faultless, although the dialogue often has the stilted, jolting formality of translation rather than the zip of authentic teenage chat.

Hero charts the youngsters—who initially seem much more babyish than the 14-year-olds they’re supposed to be playing—as they grow into adults. Dreams of leaving, making a better life, of doing things differently, are crushed; romances blossom, then whither. Violence begets violence. War is bad. It isn't subtle.

With melodramatic moments, a lot of earnest tears, and rather flat writing, the narrative never really springs to life, although there are some bright performances among a mixed cast. Halla Sigriour Ragnarsdottir especially stands out as the sassy, take-no-shit tough girl who is, of course, more soft-centred than she tries to appear.