Forgotten war plays from the vaults will help remember the fallen

By Kevin Black in Entertainment

With the First World War raging 100 years ago and the nation’s thoughts turning to the remembrance of the fallen, Limpsfield based Threadbare Theatre has taken the wraps off its latest production, The Great War As It Was.

Audiences at the Bluehouse Festival at the URC Church in Oxted were the first to witness Threadbare’s Lucy Linger’s plundering of archives to retrieve three short works that are largely forgotten and dealing with the effects of the Great War on families and individuals.

The three plays are A New Word by JM Barrie, first performed in London in March 1915; God’s Outcast from the pen of J. Hartley Manners and written in 1919 as the world tried to patch together the wounds caused by WWI; and The Boy Comes Home, a piece from AA Milne, first performed in 1918, and a bit before Winnie The Pooh was on his literary horizon.

These three plays, with some songs and humour and prefaced by a music hall setting (hands up who remembers Leonard Sachs and his gavel and very big words), conjure up the emotions and feelings as war plucks young men - and women - from the very core of their families to an undescribable hell where death and survival are the only consequences.

Naturally the people who are embroiled in the conflict and its aftermaths are terribly, terribly middle class, but if you ignore that, you soon realise that going to war, dying in battle, surviving the bullets and bombs, touches the lives of all, irrespective of class or creed.

The Great War As It Was is quirky theatre at its best and Lucy Linger has assembled a trio of actors capable of breathing plenty of life into three plays that had been gathering dust on a shelf somewhere.

Andrew Candish has the Leonard Sachs role when introducing the music hall element of the evening and really comes into his own with a tear provoking role as the Man At The Station in God’s Outcast as he and a stranger he encounters cope with the loss of loved ones.

Felicity Jolly, last seen locally in Threadbare Theatre’s poignant Offroading, is the rock on which this trio of works depends, underpinning the entire presentation with her female perspective of war and its fallout.

Matthew Winters, who cuts a caddish but loveable figure at times as the young man who goes off to the battlefield, provides the khaki to embroider the landscape that emerges of the human face of war. I must also put in a mention for Year 12 Oxted School student Hayley Sasserath who puts in an all too fleeting appearance as Mary The Maid but enough to suggest that there are better and bigger things to come.

The Great War As It Was is at the Crown in old Oxted on November 11-13 before transferring to the 950 seat Theatre Royal in Brighton for a gala performance to launch a regional tour.

Words: kevin black Photo: supplied

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