Leaving Vietnam ★★★★ Park Theatre | Mar 14 - Apr 8, 2023

America may have left Vietnam, but it is arguable if the wound which that war left on the American psyche has ever healed. This monologue of a Vietnam veteran shows how the alienation created by that conflict leads in a direct line to the enormous political problems that bedevil the country today. The sense of manipulation and betrayal by political leaders and the ensuing dislocation caused by economic globalisation are the progenitors of the renewed populism and isolationism that characterise the current political climate. In his monologue, Richard Vergette captures this reality by focussing on the story of one decent, working class veteran who is traumatised by his war experience and bewildered by the world that he inherits. The main strength of the play is the individualisation and personalisation of the American political dilemma in the character of Jimmy, but the work also has an engaging dramatic arc of development that is both heartening and hopeful. Vergette gives a powerful performance that provides a touching insight into the proud, decent man who plays by the rules and keeps his feelings bottled up. If there is a quibble with Vergette's channeling of his character, it might be that he over projects. A more conversational tone might have engaged the audience more. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating insight into the soul of a tortured man and the side of America he represents. It humanises rather than demonises supporters of those ideologies that are becoming ever more widespread around the world. Leaving Vietnam is a moving and thought-provoking piece of theatre.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Jane Hobson.

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