Close Quarters is a new play from Kate Bowen which follows three female soldiers stationed in Estonia. The soldiers face discrimination from their male counterparts and must deal with the pressure of being the first generation of female infantry soldiers to serve in the British Armed Forces.

Shortly before the play began, the original actor playing Private Sarah Findlay, the lead, dropped out. Without an understudy, Adiza Shardow was forced to step into the role last minute and had to use a script in certain scenes due to the time constraints. Whilst this was slightly distracting at first, it was soon too captivating a performance for this to hinder the audiences enjoyment.

But it’s Chloe-Ann Tylor as Private Alison Cormack that steals the show. Her performance as the soldier who faces constant harassment due to a former relationship with a male member of the squad was incredibly convincing. Her relationship with childhood friend Private Findlay grows more and more fractured following an incident on a mission.

The core cast is limited and the staging compact but this intimacy helped me feel immersed in the setting and empathetic towards the characters. However, the play’s bigger set-pieces didn’t land as well for me due to the staging.

Bowen’s dialogue is sharp, funny and at times cutting. My favourite moments were the quieter ones: the three women and their male squaddie exchanging banter after a difficult day, a conversation between Findlay and her captain, an argument between friends. Less convincing were the opening and closing monologues of the play. These exposition-heavy sections feel clunky compared to the slick dialogue in the rest of the show.

Close Quarters opened on the 27th of October and runs to the 10th of November. See Sheffield Theatres website for more details.

3 Stars

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