Three in the Back Two in the Head

BY JASON SHERMAN
9 November 2005 — 10 December 2005

"This clever little thriller from Canadian writer Jason Sherman is based on the life of Gerald Bull, the maverick artillery designer who would have delivered Saddam Hussein his supergun had somebody not silenced him. The manner of his silencing makes for the title of the piece. In the play, Bull becomes the peace-loving Donald Jackson. His obsession is not guns, but developing a defence against nuclear attack. When the US government cancels his funding, Jackson goes rogue, willing to sell his system to whoever can fund his vision. The tale of betrayal and flawed idealism unwinds in skilful flashback, Jackson's son Paul interrogates the CIA agent who sanctioned his father's death. Rod Beacham is excellent as Jackson. He shines with the conviction of the academic visionary. His breakdown, in Arthur Miller style, comes with the realisation that, in military hands, a state-of-the-art defence is merely a platform for attack. This naivety is a little hard to credit, but Beacham makes it work, bringing an unexpected touch of heroism to a much-maligned profession." Evening Standard

"An engrossing political thriller... brought to dramatic life by director Adam Barnard who assists his writer by allowing scenes and times to melt into each other without a pause. His skill is in achieving this without ever leaving confusion in his wake... It is both intelligent and has that "page-turning" quality of the best spy novels - you want to know what will happen next. " British Theatre Guide

"Recent events bring an urgency and topicality to Sherman’s thriller... this provocative political piece remains a welcome addition to the Orange Tree’s impressively eclectic repertoire." Whatsonstage.com

"A lot of the complexity that gives the character interest is created by Rod Beacham’s striking performance. Reassuringly soft-voiced, Beacham’s manner contrasts his character’s spikier edges. There’s decent work throughout the cast, including Vincent Brimble’s quietly authoritative military leader pursuing a personal peace agenda and Kevin Doyle as his namesake, a CIA official with a manner as crisply bland as his immaculate white shirt, he has only his word-spinning to break the impact when he realises he’s the fall-guy." Review's Gate