Novelist and Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has now turned his hand to playwrighting. His first play, Incoming, receiving a world premiere at the HighTide Festival is a promising debut.
Steph is packing up her belongings ahead of a move to a new house. It’s a traumatic and emotional experience for her as the home holds countless memories of her husband, Danny, a soldier killed in Afghanistan.
In the middle of her packing, the ghost of Danny starts to speak to her, finally responding to the one sided conversation she has been having with her husband since his death.
The couple have much to say to each other and for undisclosed reasons, a limited time in which to say it before Danny goes to his Final Reward; once Steph moves from the former family home to try and rebuild her life will the link be broken?
Danny recounts his time in Helmand with brutal honesty, the camaraderie, the frustrations, the horror of seeing a mate scorched in front of his eyes and the struggle to carry him back to help and, chillingly, the sensation of death itself and the half remembered details of events after death.
For Steph this is understandably painful testimony to hear; in her mind her Danny was a hero, fighting for Queen and Country and a moral cause. The black and white reality a shocking awakening.
Motion’s script is full of vivid imagery, testament to his poetic background. There is more than poetic scene setting here though; Motion also shows a strong ear for dramatic narrative, providing some moving scenes between the torn apart couple.
There are strong performances from Penny Layden and Christian Bradley, reunited fresh from Lidless, a previous HighTide success. There is a strong chemistry between the two with an immensely focused and emotional delivery.
Incoming isn’t a totally perfect debut. The final scene introducing the couple’s son Jack into the piece never fully convinces; there is a potential here for the character to be more powerful unseen.
Despite its slightly underpowered ending, Incoming is an impressive theatrical debut from Andrew Motion and bodes well for future dramatic endeavours.
Photo: Christian Bradley as Danny in Incoming.Photo Bill Knight