A fitting tribute to soldiers’ gallantry and bravery in war
As we prepare to commemorate Armistice Day on Sunday which this year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, The Mission Theatre is staging Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful
Private Tommo Peaceful, a young First World War soldier, has been accused of desertion. Imprisoned in a barn in Ypres in 1916, Tommo has time to reflect on his short, but joyful life. A childhood in rural Devon, school days, family life, Molly - his first and only love - and the battles and injustices of war. Next Stage’s Kristofer Rose plays Tommo in a one-man show that has audiences laughing one moment and crying the next. Private Tommo Peaceful is one of many who lied about their age at the start of First World War and, believing totally in the glory of fighting for king and country, willingly enlisted in the first wave of national patriotism in 1914. The twist in Tommo’s story is that when the play opens he has been imprisoned in a barn in France for cowardice and is awaiting his fate. Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write Private Peaceful having seen a First World War report notifying parents that their young underage soldier son had been shot for desertion. Many suffered the same fate, but in 2006 over 300 were granted a posthumous pardon as it is now recognised that many were suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and deserved treatment rather than death by firing squad. In the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire the Shot at Dawn monument commemorates the 309 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for desertion and other capital offences during the First World War. Tommo’s life in rural Devon in the early 1900s was a million miles away from the horrors of the trenches in France. A tour de force for any actor, Kris engenders life and energy, not only into his depiction of Tommo, but also into the multitude of other characters that Tommo recalls from his short, but eventful life. Big brother Charlie is Tommo’s hero, whilst handicapped brother Joe, needs protection and love. Bullies in the shape of teachers and army personnel can make life harsh and unfair, but a close-knit family and childhood friends can help to wipe away the tears and pain. Building to an unforgettable and powerful climax, Private Peaceful is theatre at its best - inviting audiences to share collective joy and grief. Director, Ann Ellison said: “I vividly remember my daughter, Alexa, coming home 15 years ago having just seen Private Peaceful performed in Bristol. She told me what an extraordinarily moving piece of theatre it was and urged me to read and produce it with Next Stage. “What could be more fitting than bringing it to the stage in this particular week - the 100th year anniversary of the Armistice which ended the Great War of 1914-18. Even rehearsing it in an empty theatre this piece has the power to stir and compel and both Kris and I have been very moved researching and working on it. “Now it needs the added ingredient of an audience to hear the story of Tommo Peaceful, which, whilst set a century ago, still resonates today. As the horrors and injustices of war increase in this troubled age, Tommo’s plight and his stand for freedom and fellowship strikes a universal chord.” Actor Kris said: “Working on Private Peaceful has been a new and exciting challenge. “Having the opportunity to work on a one-man production is one I did not want to miss. Learning the many different characters, with their own voices and nuances, has been an absolute joy to work through with director, Ann Ellison. “I look forward to everyone seeing these different characters within the play as I fill the stage with each of their individual stories. In particular, Private Tommo Peaceful has become a character I have grown fond of and his story, like many of the real life boy soldiers, is one I will always remember.” A compelling play, sympathetically adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s unforgettable story, Private Peaceful is Next Stage’s fitting tribute to the gallantry and bravery of the millions of soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War and whose sacrifices will be especially remembered this year as the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that took place on November 11 1918. Private Peaceful runs at The Mission Theatre until Saturday, tickets cost £12.50. Tickets are available online at www.missiontheatre.co.uk/tickets or call 01225 428600 email@example.com or from Bath Box Office - 01225 463362 Next Stage Theatre Company is proud to be raising funds for The Royal British Legion in a collection at each performance of Private Peaceful.
Kristofer Rose as Private Tommo Peaceful
The Shot at Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum