by Peter Gill
Part of the 1999 season of BT
National Connections where youth theatre groups performed one of a number
of new plays commissioned for the scheme.
Friendly Fire is the story of nine young people and a statue of
a private soldier in the First World War. At its heart is a trio of people —
each in love with the other, but in the wrong order. Adie likes Gary, but Gary
likes Shelley, who likes Adie. None of this is simple, as the three discover as
they struggle to understand and cope with the hand life and love have dealt them
and 'sort out what they can put up with, and what they can't'. Insightful, tough
and moving, this is an important new play offering outstanding roles.
For a cast of ten, Friendly Fire is appropriate for the
mid/upper age range. It contains some swearing. It has six settings, but can be
performed with no scenery or props. It benefits from a fluid production with
emphasis on acting skills.
Connections series, Drama, Ages 11-19
By Simon Armitage and Peter Gill, December 1999, Nelson Thornes, UK, ISBN: 0748742905, 105 p. $17.95 paper original
Six friends are interviewed by the police after the disappearance of Lucy
Lime, the strange unnerving girl - "I am a walking Universe, I am" - whom they
met on the beach beneath the cliffs. Adie likes Gary who like Shelley who likes Adie. Relationships are strained as
they "sort out what they can put up with, and what they can't" - under the
shadow of a soldier on a Great War memorial.
Eclipse by Simon Armitage and Friendly Fire by Peter Gill were
specially commissioned by the Royal National Theatre for the BT National
Connections Scheme for young people.
Connections Plays Online for activities related to this play:
There are no adults in Peter Gill's play. There are no children either. Rather,
all of the characters seem to be in a sort of limbo in which they feel no
certainty about who they are or where they are going. They hang around together
because that's what they've always done, but their lives are changing. Old
allegiances are strained by new feelings; old assumptions are questioned by new
Like Edward Bond's 'Saved' and the work of Sarah Kane, 'Friendly Fire' is a
challenging play but one which is ultimately rewarding to study and produce
precisely because it is so robust in what it says and the way it says it. At
first glance teachers and students may be shocked by its use of strong language,
nonplussed by the apparently inconsequential dialogue, or confused by the
terrifyingly surreal ending. But while the characters may initially seem
shallow, bleak and gratuitous, behind their 'front' lies a depth of compassion
and morality. The drama of 'Friendly Fire' is in the young people's struggle to
come to terms with their feelings of loss, love and alienation as they depart
from childhood and await entry into an adult world that makes public displays of
caring (represented by the war memorial) but doesn't actually care enough to
'Friendly Fire' is not an easy play to work on. The different themes it explores
and the different techniques employed by Peter Gill work so closely together
they are like a theatrical mobius strip. Just as you can't say where the
beginning of a mobius strip is or even determine which is inside and which is
outside, with 'Friendly Fire' the form and content are so intertwined that the
only really effective way of understanding the play is to experience it in
practice. Sixth-form or senior youth groups will doubtless emerge wiser should
they do so.
Activities devised by Andy Kempe.
|You're afraid when you ain't got power.
|You took Shelley.
|I never did.
|I'm so lonely.
|When was you like it?
|When you was in hospital?
|It was when I realised it was hopeless. That I was, that you was. The
knowledge dropped like a stone. A thud. The knowledge that what I imagined
could happen was false. I was falling, falling. The knowledge dropped into
real knowledge. The feeling. The knowledge. Hopeless. But it can't be
hopeless cos you're hoping. Lost all confidence. I ain't got any.
|You're my friend. My only one. I don't care about no one else. I don't.
If only you was a girl, Adie.
|I don't want to be a girl, thanks.
|I know. But it would sort it.
|For you it would, mate. I've always forgiven you. You always get
forgiven, you. I'll always...
|Shelley loves you.
|She do, Adie. She'll never say. But she do. Why can't you face that?
|I don't want to. It's Shelley. I can't.
|You don't like Shelley like I like you.
|I like her like I like her. Leave me alone.
|If we could divvy it all up, it would be alright.
|What we gonna do?
|You're in charge. You are, Gary, You know that.
|Not of Shelley.
|We have to live. Live. Don't we? Best we can. Sort out what we can put
up with, what we can't. Hope something comes out.