Positioned somewhere between the existential philosophy of Samuel Beckett and the comedic tropes of Monty Python, Give Me Your Love is an uncanny exploration of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In a putrid room with stained walls and a muddy floor sits Zach (David Woods), a traumatised war veteran from Iraq who has retreated into a cardboard box. To overcome his past, Zach decides to undergo a more radical form of therapy: taking psychedelics and then talking about it.
Give Me Your Love is full of ambiguity. From the extended silences, miscommunications, verbal ellipses and inconsistences that characterise the dialogue to the unstable and unknown characters that speak to Zach but are never seen (the most we see is a hand through a crack in the door). Even the validity of Zach’s trauma is questionable: after he fabricates a disturbing story of how his friend was blown up in front of him, Zach admits that the true trauma was, in fact, nothing. It was precisely that nothing happened; that he was deployed in the desert and did nothing but “sit on [his] fat arse” that was the real tragedy.
In straddling the line between fiction and reality, the work takes a sideward perspective on matters of war and trauma. Who has the power to designate and determine what is or is not traumatic? “That sounds traumatic,” posits an old war buddy (Jon Haynes) from offstage. Give Me Your Love plays on this uncertainty: we cannot ever know what war veterans have gone though. Even if they have not seen what we may recognise as a traumatic encounter, the atmosphere of the military, the ideology that underpins it, the structures of uncertainty, being “at war,” or rather, “playing at war” will invariably extend to traumatic proportions.
Beneath all of this is the distressing return home from the battlefield. The displacement that occurs when soldiers attempt to integrate back to mundane aspects of civilised life, only to be rendered useless by the social machine. The trope of the knight’s errant – of going out, defeating the dragon and returning home to win something (veneration, a prize, a medallion, a wife etc.) – is a myth. Here, returned soldiers do not return as heroes. Instead, people can barely hear what they are saying. It seems the only option left to them is to hide in a cardboard box.
Give Me Your Love is a highly refined work, loaded with nuance. But it is also alienating. We only ever glimpse a human face once or twice, a feature that seems to prevent sympathetic identification with the characters. However, when combined with long pauses, frequently repeating, banal dialogue and little action onstage, this sense of alienation means that the work feels far more drawn out than it perhaps should.