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This show closed on February 2, 2019

About The Unreturning

I want to return to my home. I want a hero’s welcome: fanfares and brass bands and sausage rolls and jaeger bombs. I want to lie under the skylight on my mum’s bed and watch clouds. I want to go out in my hometown, drink and dance and shout for no reason! I want to sing in the streets and puke in the gutter and they will never know. None of them will ever know what I….

Can beginnings be made out of endings? In a British Northern Coastal town, three young men are coming home. In 1918 George returns from the Western Front. In 2013 Frankie is back from his final tour of Afghanistan. And some time in the not-too-distant future Nat returns from an overseas refugee camp to what was his hometown.

A compelling new play by Anna Jordan (Yen – Royal Court Theatre, Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2013), directed by Neil Bettles (Associate Director of Frantic Assembly) and featuring Frantic’s celebrated physicality, The Unreturning explores the profound effect that war has on young lives, and asks – what does coming home really mean? What is home? And when experience has shattered you into a million pieces, will home help to put you together again, or treat you as an ugly truth it does not want to confront?

This production celebrates the 10th anniversary of Frantic Assembly’s Ignition training programme, of which Theatre Royal Stratford East has previously been a partner.

Tell Me More

The past, present, and future commingle in Anna Jordan’s haunting new play, as three soldiers from separate eras attempt to find a way back to the comforting home life that only exists in their memory. The tales are told through mournful repetition with a combination of styles that “The Guardian” calls “sensitively and poetically done.” Set in various wartimes in which UK soldiers gave their lives, this aesthetically exhilarating and emotionally engaging new work is a combination of theatrical drama mixed with an artistic movement experiment.

The beautiful, gutting work premieres in London for the first time after enjoying critical success in Edinburgh. The unique piece is designed similarly to a string quartet, with the four central figures performing both together and separately. Jordan wrote and developed “The Unreturning” in collaboration with Frantic Assembly, an innovative theatre company that specialises in developing creative new styles and challenging the standard methods of storytelling onstage.

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What To Watch For

  • Frantic Assembly’s most notable work was their collaboration for the award-winning theatrical phenomenon “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which won several awards for both its West End and Broadway runs. The founders of the company have no formal theatre training or background, but simply wanted a space to create unique theatrical experiences.
  • The three wars represented in the play are World War I (1918), Afghanistan (2013), and a fictional future civil war that has seemingly decimated the English countryside (2026). Apart from the latter, Anna Jordan draws on real events and facets of the wars, so even though the play is largely artistic invention, history buffs won’t be disappointed.
  • Anna Jordan’s best loved work is the critically acclaimed “Yen,” which earned her the prestigious Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2013 and was a finalist for the 2015-16 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

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Run Time

100 minutes (no interval)

Start Date

End Date


Age Guidance: 14+

Performed with heart and focus
The Guardian
Frantic Assembly has done it again. Mesmerising
British Theatre Guide

Theatre Royal Stratford East

Gerry Raffles Square, London, E15 1BN

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