BBC Radio 4, 28 September 2010
Set in an aural Istanbul full of bustle and noise (but thank heaven no
sounds of the faithful being called to prayer), On the Field on Leave showed how Mahmoud the barber (Paul Chahidi)
had now exchanged the soldier's life in Basra for a more quiet existence as a barber. His old friend from Iraq, Billy
(Paul Mundell), had likewise left the army and become Assistant Military Attache at the British Consulate. The play told
of two former squaddies Kev (Carl Prekopp) and Damon (Osi Okerafor), who had decided to go on holiday to Istanbul; there they
ran into Mahmoud's 'unofficial' nephew Yusuf (Sal Osbay), who took a break from working in the barber's shop to give the two
unsuspecting tourists a tour through the Basilica Cisterns. Unfortunately the three of them ran into a fight with the police:
the two Brits were taken into custody, while Yusuf was handed over to his 'uncle.' Luckily the three of them escaped punishment:
Billy intervened on the squaddies' behalf, convincing the police inspector Guler (Hakan Silahsiz) that the fight was nothing
more serious than one of the scraps frequently happening on the Turkish coast, when drunken Britons fight anyone unfortunate
enough to stand in their way. Meanwhile Mahmoud ordered Yusuf to work full-time in the shop, and stop moonlighting.
The play had a sub-theme, as the squaddies tried their best to find the Istanbul
locations used in From Russia with Love, while simultaneously imagining themselves as latterday Bonds, saving the
western world from imminent corruption by the Russians.
On the Field on Leave invoked familiar stereotypes of the Turkish Republic:
Istanbul was constructed as a place of intrigue and/or secrecy; the Turkish police sergeant cast an intimidating presence
over the luckless squaddies; Billy asked Mahmoud over for kebabs (in twenty years of living in the Turkish Republic I have
never encountered anyone who would do this); while Mahmoud's family was portrayed as 'traditionally' Islamic, containing
several aunts, uncles and numerous other blood relatives. However it was clear that this was an outsider's view of the country;
if the play was approached on those terms, it was highly entertaining.