For director and co-writer Bob Baldwin, Wireless Operator is based on a very personal story, that of his own father, Sergeant JJ Baldwin who was a Wireless Operator with 630 squadron, and who is represented in this story as John.
The Wireless Operator was one of the key roles on board the Lancaster Bombers as the soared over Germany on highly dangerous missions during the second World War. This story follows, almost in real time, the final mission for this particular crew, they know that if they make it home alive they will have done their duty and their role in the war complete.
This creates an even bigger determination within the crew to ‘get the job done.’ The human sacrifice below is a constant in the mind of pacifist John, but for him survival is the only option for his sweetheart and child.
There’s a crew of at least seven on board, plus a couple of people from back home who have something to say to John. But we spend the entire play with John, all of the other characters are voices through the plane’s intercom, and through Thomas Dennis’ beautifully nuanced performance we get a deep understanding of the fear and confusion that raged in his mind during that night time flight.
The staging looks great, John’s wireless station is represented by a mechanical rig that spins and moves on its own axis, allowing for realistic movements of flight. The uniform too looks very authentic and there’s a sense that a great deal of care has gone in to making this play look and feel realistic.
A terrifying soundscape of gunfire, explosions and the mechanical grumblings of the plane all come together to create this atmosphere of fear and hope. That comes through in the writing too, which manages to not only describe in vivid detail the events of the flight, but the inner conversations John is having with himself. It possibly carries on just a little longer than necessary, extending beyond its natural conclusion.
Very sensitively written, and beautifully performed Wireless Operator is clearly a passion project that has had the opportunity to come to fruition at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it’s a remarkable piece of work that will captivate anyone who chooses to see it.