Whether the story is a childhood favourite or completely new to you, this performance of ‘Private Peaceful’ is a must-see, guaranteed to have you leave the theatre feeling a burning desire to help the characters.
Based on Michael Morpurgo's iconic novel of the same title, it is a production that tackles themes of growing up, the cruelty of war and the strength of brotherhood as we accompany the young 'Tommo' Peaceful on his journey of reflection on his short yet remarkable life.
From the moment I arrived at the show, the atmosphere had already begun to form through the use of sound effects echoing throughout the theatre. There was a harsh-sounding wind, a low rumble, and the occasional boom creating a slightly tense yet largely intriguing atmosphere for the audience even before the first line had been delivered.
The set was reasonably minimalistic, with four sections of items spread across the stage. Each section was sat on top of a stack of hay - a simple and effective way of showing the audience some background information concerning the era and class of the play. Centre stage was a metal bed frame with just a bedsheet and pillow placed on top, a crucial part of the production. Each time jump began with Tommo sat on the bed, before he announced the time and then continued the scene. The frame was also turned over more than once during the play to become part of a trench - preventing the stage from becoming too crowded with set/props and keeping the play so intriguing.
As if the above wasn't enough, one of the most impressive features that stuck out of the play was that it was all performed by one man. Of course, I must give credit to the amazing technical work done (such as those in control of the array of sound effects and the symbolic lighting changes) but every character we saw on stage was performed by one man. I thought that this was truly astounding - how one man could play such a range of characters and encourage the audience to react to every one of them with an emotion. I found myself, along with many others, laughing each time Tommo had a little added remark about one of the characters (for example, when he stated that his brother Charlie punched a boy in the 'goolies'). Despite the difficult task of portraying all three brothers (as well as the rest of the characters), the actor was able to show how bonds of brotherhood remain strong even during times of war and sorrow, such as during WW1 and when hard times come to the family after Father's death.
Private Peaceful is exceedingly emotional and inserts simple humour to compliment the beautiful yet tragic story of a soldier, son and, most importantly, a brother at its heart. It is a captivating production and the cast's high energy creates the play that is the perfect addition to your evening plans.
Article by BOA Student Eli, as part of our ORT Report scheme