Emily Harris, Head of Drama, directs this year’s Lower School Production, ‘Private Peaceful’.
She says, “The cascade of poppies at St Lawrence Chapel in Warminster last November was a poignant tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in WW1 and I was reminded of Michael Morpurgo’s novel ‘Private Peaceful’, which was adapted for stage by Simon Reade. It is fitting to bring this play to life in a school community which has such strong military ties, and to encourage our pupils to engage with the commemorative events through projects such as Wiltshire at War and Devon Remembers.”
Private Peaceful tells the heart-wrenching story of Tommo, a young First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night, he relives his short but vivid past: his terrifying first day at school; the accident in the forest that killed his father; late-night poaching with Molly, the love of his life; and the battles and injustices of war that have brought him to the front line.
The novel was inspired by a visit to Ypres where Morpurgo was shocked to discover how many young soldiers were court-martialled and shot for cowardice during the First World War.
The play is set in 1916, just before the Battle of the Somme. Many of the soldiers were fatigued by the war at this point and well aware that they were being sent to an almost certain death when ordered to go “over the top‟ to attack the German trenches.
‘They say there’s soon going to be an almighty push all the way to Berlin. I’ve heard that before. They say the regiment is marching up the road towards the Somme. It is late June, Summer here and at home’
In the play, a young soldier’s refusal to follow orders – and not leave his wounded brother to go on a suicide mission – lies at the heart of the story and highlights the horrific situation many soldiers found themselves in during the war. Morpurgo reflects that this is as much a story about the human spirit as it is about the horrors of war.
Staged in traverse, this action-packed production will be performed in the Sports Hall between 22nd and 24th June. Tickets available through ticketsource.co.uk