Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Waterfront Festival

Theatre Review: Private Peaceful at Nottingham Playhouse

17 February 22 words: Ian C Douglas

Ian Douglas headed to Nottingham Playhouse to check out the latest stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's World War One drama Private Peaceful

Imagine you find yourself at the Battle of the Somme; machines guns firing, mustard gas seeping, howitzers thundering, and grenades exploding. What would you do? Could you go over the top and race into the maelstrom of certain death? Or would you run away, hide, feign illness, do anything to escape that madness of blood and barbwire? Even if you did not abandon your post, surely, you’d be thinking about it.

Let’s say you desert your duty. That is, the duty to sacrifice your life for King and Country. How should you be treated afterwards? Does a rushed trial by unsympathetic officers, the verdict of guilt and cowardice, and a dawn execution, sound fair? Killed not by German bullets, but by British.

These are some of the themes raised in Private Peaceful, adapted by Simon Reade from a work by Michael Morpurgo. The first act follows the childhood of the Peaceful brothers, Charlie and Tommo. Two boys growing up in Devon. A farming life set against the feudalism of the English class system. But the Peacefuls are a loving family, and survive the hardships that rural poverty throws at them. There is a lot of running about on stage, folksy songs, and character development.   

A thought-provoking play with a likeable cast and dramatic use of lighting and theatrical smoke

The pace picks up considerably in the second act, when the brothers march off to war. Tommo still in his early teens and lying about his age. Their youthful innocence does not last long at the battlefront, where they quickly learn the horrors of war. Before the curtain drops, a soldier will disregard orders only to face the brutal justice of a court martial.

Daniel Boyd and Dan Rainford, as the Peaceful boys, do a smashing job of taking the audience into the story. Thanks to their performances, it’s easy to believe we’re in the muddy hell of World War One and not the safety of the Playhouse auditorium. The supporting cast change roles with aplomb. The set is designed to double both for the Devon countryside and the blasted landscape of the war.

All in all, a thought-provoking play with a likeable cast and dramatic use of lighting and theatrical smoke. Michael Morpurgo is a children’s writer and schoolchildren made up the bulk of the theatregoers. And yet, there was not a peep from any of them throughout the production. That’s about the best praise a play can get.  

Nottingham Playhouse presents Private Peaceful from Saturday 12 February to Saturday 26 February

For information and tickets call 0115 9419419 or book online

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now

You might like this too...

Nottingham City Transport

You might like this too...