Gene David Kirk’s exploration of homosexuality in the army is, expectedly, a tragic and harrowing experience. Yesterday’s Tomorrow follows the growing relationship between two soldiers: the softly spoken, polite Ian (Ben Carpenter) and the brash, aggressive John (Matthew Schmolle). The events unfold during an unspecified, modern war (Kosovo or Iraq perhaps) – together with the abstract sound and cardboard box set, it’s clear that the play’s themes are applicable to any and all wars.
Through its characterisation, the play explores perceptions of homosexuality and masculinity within the army – a place where the men must fight homophobia in the ranks as well as the enemy. The two central protagonists are closeted, their relationship only possible as a glimmer of hope after their service concludes. They are bullied by the other typically macho and bigoted characters who spend their time discussing raping the local women, in particular the crude and churlish Simon (Nicholas Waters) boasting to the green and innocent young Paul (River Hawkins). Individually the characters feel too stereotypical, but together they provide a worryingly truthful cross-section of male soldiers (the play is based on actual events). Kirk’s scriptwriting is suitably contrasting, from John’s macho geezer language to Ian’s poetic lines that beautifully describe such bloody events, but the central relationship lacks chemistry, only offering a tender moment in Ian’s final monologue.
More so, the play is a comment on memory and post-traumatic stress. “Imagine there’s something in your memory you can’t shift”, says John early on. The play itself take the form of flashback as we follow Ian through his past, haunted by his time in the army and struggling to deal with the after effects. Different perceptions of the same events are told simultaneously, whilst abstract sound effects and stark lighting guide us from scene to scene. In this way, the play is structured more as a fragmented series of memories and ideas rather than a traditional narrative.
As such, Yesterday’s Tomorrow perhaps skims over its themes a little swiftly during its single act, but the emotional performances from a very strong cast ensure this is a gripping, intense and frightening depiction of the horrors of war.