Civic Theatre, Darlington – 10 March 2015
Sebastian Faulkes Birdsong arrives in Darlington this week, as part of a UK tour commemorating 100 years since the World War I.
Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation is intense, dark and brooding, so accurate you felt you were down those horrendous small tunnels. Although this is in part due to the immense set, designed by Victoria Spearing and the outstanding lighting, designed by Alex Wardle for Charcoalblue LLP.
Telling the story of Stephen Wraysford (Edmund Wiseman), the play moves between the Western Front in France between 1916 and 1918 and flashes back to his past to Amiens in 1910.
Birdsong dwells on the hellish tunnelling and explosives-laying operations conducted below the battlefield. Using atmospheric lighting and crouching, nerve-racked movements to conjure an indescribable mood of tension, the cast powerfully conveys the terror of being buried alive in narrow earthy passageways dripping with blood
The story is based on the idea that the bombardment is already under way and Stephen is lying seriously injured in a field hospital. With his past in Amiens being replayed as part of the shell shock.
There are two moments that stand out: the needless, but almost heroic, suicide of 15 year old Tripper (Max Bowden) and Peter Duncan’s performance as Jack Firebrace, a simple sapper. Duncan shakes off his action man children’s TV presenter persona to show just what an exceptional actor he is.
The singing and music pieces are totally evocative and blend into the performance seamlessly.
The 12 strong ensemble are a tribute to the sacrifice of the millions of men who died – showing just a glimpse of the horrendous experiences they went through.
Showing in Darlington until Saturday March 14th and on tour in the UK, visit http://www.birdsongthetour.com/ for further dates