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Belgrade Theatre review: Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful, Belgrade Theatre, to May 21.

Review by Jane Barker

There are actually two Private Peacefuls in this play based on Michael Morpurgo’s First World War novel, Charlie and younger brother Tommo.

The very name slightly gives away the plot. You know there’s going to be no room for anyone peaceful in the hell of the Flanders killing grounds, and it’s not going to end well for either of the privates.

But the story builds well. The pair, along with their brother and mother, have a tough time following their father’s death. They are exploited by their cruel landlord, terrorised by their vicious teacher, and finally persuaded to put their lives on the line for king and country.

Of course in the army they are terrorised again, this time by the sergeant on the training ground and then by the incompetent officers who force them to risk their lives on the battlefield. They know it’s utterly pointless, but to disobey means a firing squad.

The tale probably doesn’t tell us much we don’t already know about the pity of war, but this production tells it quite spectacularly.

The set is stunning, used as a childhood home, a blissful countryside playground and a rat-infested trench rocked by explosions and gunfire. And the six-strong cast cover a whole host of roles between them, and do it brilliantly.

It’s a shame that the theatre was only half full.

The production is aimed at a family audience and is recommended for over-nines, although there are plenty of loud noises.


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