Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Review: “You should never be afraid to be the first penguin”
Greeted and shown to my seat by a friendly, but slightly intimidating Scottish lady in military apparel, the stage set with a camo net and a shooting target – I was ready and prepared to watch a one woman play about life in the military. However, what ensued for the next 75 minutes dug much deeper than that.
Based on the true story of ex-Airwoman Rebecca Crookshanks’s time serving in the R.A.F, this piece follows her journey from her training, aged just 16, to her post in the Falkland Islands, complete with home video footage. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF) has won awards for Best New Play, Best New Production, Best Actress and Best Director – and all are thoroughly deserved.
WTF is slick, fast paced and brilliantly directed by Dr Jessica Beck and it is hard to believe that Crookshanks herself has come from a military background, and hasn’t always been an actress, as she seamlessly switches from character to character, every one with a different accent and mannerisms, from her Scouse best friend ‘Wingwoman’ to her karaoke obsessed higher Officer, who meets a tragic and poignant end.
Set to a soundtrack of the 90s, which will always be a winner in my eyes, the technical aspects of this production are sharp, flawless and exceptional. From music to projections and home video played on the target board, every transition was seamless, as were the actress’ multiple costume and prop changes.
We are taken on an emotional rollercoaster, laughing uncontrollably as Crookshanks has a one night stand with a member of the audience (which just happened to be my slightly embarrassed boyfriend on this particular night) and contracts an STI, to unexpectedly weeping when we learn of her suicide attempt at the tender age of 18 and her abusive and brutal treatment at the hands of her fellow male officers whilst stationed in the Falkland Islands.
With her engaging personality and impeccable comic timing, you realise at the end that you haven’t even noticed you were watching a play, feeling instead like you know this woman and are now friends with her!
The highlight for me though, as a person who is generally obsessed with penguins, was the addition of these animals into Crookshanks’ story. Shrouded in humour and the massacre of a soft toy penguin that I had to watch through my fingers, came the message that you should never be afraid to be the first penguin – the one who has to lead the others into the water, a message that ultimately led to her leaving the forces and pursuing an acting career – and look what a good idea that turned out to be. Those penguins know everything!
A tale of bravery, survival, sexual awakening and the challenges women face when defined by their gender, this truly is a heart warming and thought provoking piece of theatre and one not to be missed.