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May 10th - May 14th
The Peaceful brothers, Tommo and Charlie, have a tough rural childhood facing the death of their father, financial hardship and a cruel landlord.
Their fierce loyalty to each other pulls them through, until one day they both fall for the same girl. And then the Great War comes.
Set against the epic backdrop of WW1, we join 18 year old Private Tommo Peaceful in the trenches as he takes us on a journey through his most cherished memories and tells his story of courage, devotion, family and friendship.
Award winning Private Peaceful was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, won the Red House Children’s Book Award and won the Blue Peter Book Award. Acknowledged by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse, The Butterfly Lion) as his favourite work, this thrilling new ensemble retelling by Simon Reade, directed by Elle While, explores the lengths a young soldier will go to, to fight for what is right.
Age Guidance: 9+
Running time: approx 2 hours including an interval
This production includes some strong language, strobe and transitional lighting, flashing lights and theatrical smoke. It also includes loud bangs, gun shots and sudden death.
The View From The Stalls
Set initially in the years running up to the Great War, the first half of Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful deals very effectively with the preamble to conflict. Family life for the 3 brothers and their parents is generally tough but, as a close family unit, they look after each other even when confronted by figures of authority such as the overbearing school master and nasty landlord (as well as, later in the play, the army superiors who shockingly refer to the brothers as "vermin" and "useless"). Which implies there is a sizeable cast but with some of the actors taking multiples roles - as many as 10 in the case of John Dougall - this requires the small cast to make some very quick changes of costume and characters.
The family ties are strong and when Charlie (Daniel Boyd) wants to enlist once the request for troops has been put out, Tommo (Daniel Rainford) wants to follow him, even though he is a mere 16 years old. As was the case with many recruits, the checks on age were minimal and Tommo becomes Charlie's "twin" brother for the purpose of acceptance. One problem is that both brothers love the same woman and they go to war with Molly pregnant with Charlie's baby.
The action is, however, done in teasing flashback style, with Tommo recounting in hindsight how things were, at home and in battle, whilst he awaits a court martial and a death by firing squad. This leads to an incredibly tense (and cunning) final scene which holds the audience spellbound.
The set is beautifully designed, allowing it to represent a number of different locations, including the family home, a river and of course most crucially the theatre of war which it becomes at the start of act 2. Off stage there is even a plane which lands hopelessly off course and the special effects, replicating the noise, the explosions and the general disarray of troops fighting in WW2, are impressively done.
As an illustration of a family - and particularly brothers - bonding in difficult but not unusual circumstances, this is an excellent story set in an age where it was truly tested to the limit and it has been creatively brought to the stage. Definitely a show which should appeal to adults and children (advisory age for children is 9+), it is a masterclass in how a relatively simple but effective set can be combined with a talented cast to produce a show which will leave you thinking about courage, devotion, family and friendship. The fact that Michael Morpurgo, who also wrote the amazing War Horse, considers it to be his favourite work should be all the encouragement you need to see it while you have the chance.
THE millions of men killed during the First World War didn’t all die in battle, or in hospitals, where they succumbed to horrific injuries.
Not everyone died at the hands of the enemy.
It is no secret that soldiers on leave and long, long after the Armistice was signed, refused to talk about what horrors they had witnessed: suffering beyond human comprehension.
In that so-called Great War, thousands of brave soldiers were unable to process the futility of what was happening around them. Today, we have a name for it. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Back then, it was called cowardice - and it’s remedy was a quick court martial followed by the firing squad at dawn.
Private Peaceful is celebrated children’s author Michael Murpurgo’s take on the futility of it all, this week brought to the stage in Malvern.
It is one night in 1916 and Tommo Peaceful (an engaging Daniel Rainford) looks back on his young life, fearing for the fate that awaits come first light of day.
Catapulted from the hard but honest life of a farm labourer amidst the green, rolling meadows of Devon, to the mud, blood, craters, gas, rats and lice of Flanders’ fields, Tommo is a hero in all but deed. He bolstered his age in order to enlist and fight alongside his elder brother Charlie (Daniel Boyd), who in turn is fighting another kind of war, the desperate need to keep separate in his head, the loving family he has left behind and the nightmare he is witnessing.
The brothers have quickly come to realise the senselessness of war and the ineptitude of commanding officers. Their lives now walk hand-in-hand with the stench of death and the mowing down is not of grass, but of men.
This spared down production, adapted by Simon Reade, is peopled by dozens of characters, but has a cast of only five other actors: John Dougall, Robert Ewens, Tom Kanji, Emma Manton and Liyah Summers. The set brilliantly serves as both the heaven and the hell in all their lives, from the happy highways where they went, to the screaming shells and explosions of their infernal here and now.
From a somewhat loose beginning Private Peaceful rises through powerful imagery to express the horrors endured by a lost generation, to end poignantly in a shower of red poppies.
Captivating! The six cast members were amazing, beautiful voices when singing and really made me believe I was there at times feeling every emotion with them. The music went hand in hand with each scene.Very moving and thought provoking. My son has read the book and was very impressed.