Private Peaceful at the Orchard Theatre
Private Peaceful arrived at The Orchard Theatre in Dartford as part of it’s UK Tour with perfect timing in the lead up to Remembrance Day and the 100th year anniversary of the end of world war 1 and wow! What a way to remember.
The whole story is told through the eyes of one man, Private Tommo Peaceful, his life as a young boy who signs up to the army to help the war effort (even though he is underage) played superbly by Andy Daniel, meaning that the actor has the huge responsibility of portraying every character in the story, which he does by way of excellent characterisation and a range of different accents from the young Tommo as a boy, throughout his life with all characters along the way, the confident older brother Charlie, the fierce and unfair Sergeant Hanley, the colonel, sergeants and lieutenants all brought excellently to life meaning there was no need for any other actors.
In particular Andy Daniels ability to convey Tommo’s naivety and love for Molly (the object of both brothers affections) with his respect and utter devotion to his own brother and the turmoil that this creates alongside the lighter moments of the story where he meets a lost pilot on a summers day and the arrival of the army recruitment team to the market place and then, the hard hitting scenes where the audience are shipped along with Tommo to the front line. We all face the fears of the rats and the lice in the trenches and two horrendous days of bombardment, all the while hearing Tommo tell us that he is not scared, he is excited, and whilst most of us cannot even begin to think of living in these conditions, Tommo explains his triumph at not running away in the face of death.
I don’t want to give away the ending (which is understandably and effectively different to the Novel) but, it was revealed in a way that only an actor with extreme compassion and understanding of character could.
The minimal staging of a bed (which was cleverly used as other scenery throughout the play) and a folded uniform, allowed us to really focus on the story and helped to expose the characters loneliness. Along with the lighting which was instrumental in this production and superb. Transporting us from the warmth of a summer’s day in Devon to the horrors of gas explosions in Belgium and everywhere in between with ease.
Simon Reade should be incredibly proud of this exquisite piece of theatre which really should be a must see for all future generations. His adaptation and direction along with Daniel’s portrayal has created a wonderfully poignant, touching and heart-warming, piece of theatre which really hit home the horrors these young boys went through and the unjust circumstances in which many were killed. I am not ashamed to admit that I was one of the many applauding with a standing ovation through my tears!
Review by Amy Farlie
To find out where else Private Peaceful is going on tour visit their website.
If you like this review you might also like my reviews of The Trench, A Very Very Very Dark Matter and Say My Name – The Unauthorised Breaking Bad Musical.