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REVIEW: Play offers poignant portrayal of effects of war - Birdsong, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, April 22

Samuel Martin as Evans and, below, Jonny Clarke as Tipper, photos by Jack Ladenburg

Samuel Martin as Evans and, below, Jonny Clarke as Tipper, photos by Jack Ladenburg

What better way to mark the centenary of the Great War than with this marvellous stage production of Sebastian Faulks’s dramatic novel?

Unlike the book, which begins with a love story in 1910, the play opens in 1916 with the bombardment of British soldiers under German attack

A convincing set, loud gunshots and explosions and realistic smoke and light effects ensure the audience is gripped from the start.

When the male lead, English officer Stephen Wraysford, becomes injured, his state of delirium serves as a tool through which his memories are brought to the fore.

Flashbacks force him to relive his passionate affair with Isabelle Azaire whose baby he only learns of after the war is over, when impeding fatherhood provides a symbol of hope.

George Banks gave a standout performance as Wraysford while Peter Duncan was enthralling as ‘sewer rat’ Jack Firebrace, especially in the play’s latter, more poignant scenes.

Cast members playing more than one character coped well and Samuel Martin’s violin playing and singing voice, as Evans, was beautifully haunting against the backdrop of war - so too were the songs of birds.

The play’s run at the Theatre Royal ends tomorrow. For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.theatreroyal.org

 

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