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This review is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

Power to Disturb owen sheers, Pink Mist (Faber & Faber) £12.99 (hb), £9.99 (ebook)

Something odd has happened to TV. There used to be a clear boundary between fact and fiction. Then it blurred. Under the banner of 'infotainment', we're now offered documentaries that include 'dramatic reconstructions', shading into dramas 'based on real events'.

This has implications for how we 'consume' the news. In the 1970s TV cameras brought the reality of violent death into our living rooms. Although I was too young to watch them, images of fighting from Vietnam clearly shocked and disturbed people; my generation felt something of that power to unsettle even in the relatively sanitised footage from the Falklands and Northern Ireland. The use of actors and special effects in reporting, however, diminishes this shock. It's hard now to see British troops in desert camouflage without expecting Ross Kemp to pop up. This is why we need Owen Sheers.

Pink Mist was commissioned as a verse play by Radio 4, broadcast last year, and subsequently shortlisted for the BBC Audio Drama Awards. I was lucky enough to hear its first public reading, weeks after it aired, at the 2012 Cheltenham Poetry Festival. It's the story of three young Bristol men -  Hads, Taff and Arthur -  who, bored with their jobs, join up and are sent to Afghanistan. Hads returns minus his legs, blown off by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Taff sees four of his friends killed in a 'friendly fire' incident, and returns a different man, estranged from his family, only able to keep the nightmares at bay with pills and ...


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