The Union Theatre – until 24th Nov
Reviewed by Elizabeth J Smith
Benjamin Till has written a poignant piece following the true stories of the young men and woman of Leeds, between 28 Jul 1914 – 11 Nov 1918, the years of World War one.
All the men are members of the local amateur brass band and decide en masse to join the fight for King and Country. The women are left behind to carry on the jobs, in the munitions factory, traditionally done by the men. The ladies decide a great way to keep the home fires burning for their boys is to resurrect the brass band so they can greet the boys when they eventually come home. It is a story of love, courage, loss and deceit. It tells the tale of how the officers treated the
men in their charge. Of how a family is ripped apart because a young lad of 15 lies about his age and joins the furore, only to be shot for cowardice. The young newly weds who discover they are expecting their first child but the husband is shot on the frontline and his wife dies from complications to her health from working in the munitions factory. How gay man couldn’t stand together hand in hand without the threat of prison.
This tale reiterates the futilities of war but also reminds of the incredible sacrifices our ancestors made to keep this country free.
The Union Theatre provides an intimate setting with a definite feeling of darkness. Creating the atmosphere of a Victorian factory and desolation of the trenches.
The music is supplied by a solo pianist, expertly played by Henry Brennan, musical director and some cast members with their brass instruments.
The set is expertly manoeuvred creating the different scenes and when the boys go over top there is a sense of despair.
All the performers created wholesome rounded characters, some with things to hide. The songs provided some great moments of true emotion. With note to “Shone with the sun”, Kelsie-Rae Marshall, “I make the shells”, Emma Harrold and “no man’s land” Sam Kipling.
The playing of the last post by Lawrence Smith brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye.
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and left knowing that as the sun went down I would remember those brave young men and woman who I owe my society freedoms to today.