Poignant tragedy of Jack Kipling

My Boy Jack

My Boy Jack - Credit: Archant

Few stories sum up the poignancy and pointlessness of war better than that of the intensely-patriotic Rudyard Kipling and his myopic teenage son Jack who died at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

The jingoism of the author of Jungle Book is brought to a grinding halt after his son is killed - and the repercussions were to be felt for the rest of his life.

So it is fitting that the Company of Ten should be staging David Haig’s powerful play My Boy Jack at Remembrance time which has a special poignancy this year because of the centenary of the start of World War I.

The play is a demanding one, especially for Russell Vincent in the role of Kipling, but he is an excellent actor and of the many roles he has taken for the Company of Ten, this one really suits hims well.

He transforms Kipling from the patriarch who tells his vulnerable son how they will go out and celebrate at the Alhambra if he gets his army commission to the broken father who blames himself every day for Jack’s death.

Russell imbues Kipling with every kind of passion and his strong performance is at the heart of what is, at times, a heart-wrenching production. Congratulations are due to director Nick Strudwick for his vision and the way he brings out the best in his talented cast.

Conor Gray is perfectly cast in the role of the vulnerable Jack and the most intense scene, which finds him about to lead his men into battle from the trenches, captures the vulnerability of the young officers as well as their men.

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Peter Bryans, as Guardsman Bowe, reappears later in the play and his portrayal of the terrible impact of war is memorable.

Tina Swain brings a calmness to the role of Kipling’s wife Carrie, in contrast to the emotional Rud as she calls him ,and Jane Withers as Elsie ‘Bird’ Kipling, Jack’s sister really grows into the part, particularly where she challenges her father to explain how the short-sighted Jack had got into the army.

Special mention has to go to the fabulous set, particularly the clever way in which the trenches are created at the front of the stage. The Company of Ten always seems to know how to make the best of the Abbey Theatre stage and this is a prime example of the skill of the backstage team.

My Boy Jack runs until Saturday and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk