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This was an excellent start to the Rep’s 2016 programme.  The play itself was well-written and gave a real insight into trench warfare in 1918.

The real eye-opener was in reality how young the majority of soldiers were, and this was brought home by the younger members of the cast.  I thought this play was particularly well cast – there wasn’t a weak link.

The set, designed by Alan Goss was excellent – it gave a real feeling of the desolation and cramped facilities experienced.  I loved the attention to detail of piles of earth round the walls, and leaves on the steps, along with candles and excellent lighting effects from Fred Rayment, including the mortar and firing lights in the sky over the dugout.  I loved the effect when the roof caved in towards the end – such attention to detail.

I was reduced to tears during the final moments of the play, when the cenotaph was projected onto the stage, and the cast stood silently in tribute – a very moving moment in a fascinating play.

Costumes were well-fitting and appropriate, looking good on the whole cast.

I was very impressed by Anthony Bird as Captain Stanhope, one of the young officers in question and how the responsibility weighed on his shoulders, an excellent characterisation.  I loved his relationship with Lieutenant Osborne, beautifully played by Alan Clarke, who always gets completely under the skin of any character.  They played out a very real and often emotional scenario.

Adam Butcher brought a more light-hearted and amusing soldier into the mix, as Private Mason – detailed as kitchen orderly to provide food and drink to the officers.  Showing a slightly devil-may-care attitude, until the end when he had to don full kit and get out into the trench to fight.

Ollie Hope, a new actor to me, created a very good character as 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh, who got himself posted to old school friend Stanhope’s battalion, where he was not entirely welcome.  Again, a good relationship showing the pressures on both young men, and the scene where Raleigh died was also very sensitively handled.  I hope we see more of Ollie Hope in the future.

Joe Hawkins got the play off to a good start, a nicely rounded portrayal.

Allan Martin and Adam Croft as 2nd Lieutenants Trotter and Hibbert respectively, created nicely diverse characters, showing the variety of men drawn into a battalion when war dictates.

The Sergeant Major, Iain Wood and Colonel, David Hillman, showed the type of officers who were older and ingrained in the ethos of not questioning authority, even when it was evident soldiers would die.  The final character was played by Alex Wheeler, as Lance Corporal, and he also covered as the captured German Soldier, with a credible German accent.

This cast came together and through the Director and their undoubted buying in totally to the play, gave the whole piece great empathy and understanding – whilst showing the audience the grim reality of war.

A heart-wrenching, well-acted and well-directed piece – an excellent production all round.

Dunstable Rep


review date: 19th January 2016

Little Theatre, Dunstable

Director:  Alan Goss  


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