Thursday, 28 August 2014

From the Edinburgh Festival

Cynthia Greenwood goes to the Edinburgh Festival every year, and lets us know if she finds anything likely to be of interest to Sassoon enthusiasts.  She has just sent us this report:

I’ve recently got back from the Edinburgh Festival and, though you might think World War One would not get much of a look in there, especially at a time when Scottish Nationalism is the big subject of debate, I did visit one impressive piece of theatre on the subject of the First World War. This was Forever Young, performed by the Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre.  It was billed as “a celebration , protest and a tribute to those who lived, loved, died and wrote through 1914-1919”. Personal testimonies, letters, poetry and diary extracts were punctuated by popular songs from the era.

The piece was performed on a small stage with little in the way of props except a trunk, part of an old ladder and a soldier’s tin hat. but everything was used to maximum effect. For example, the tin helmet, a simple protection for the soldier’s head, became a silent and potent symbol for all the dead. I was highly impressed by the amazing sensitivity and conviction of the young actors. They seemed to register every nuance of excitement, fear and despair on their faces. 

The readings were filled with total conviction and were organised to achieve striking contrasts. At one moment we were caught up totally in a young wife’s anguish on hearing her husband had been killed, next we heard a popular song of the time, then powerful work by the war poets. The poems were read with great depth of feeling and a keen appreciation of the meaning. In Sassoon’s “Does It Matter?” the force and irony of the piece were strongly conveyed. Hearing Wilfred Owen’s “The Last Laugh” I noticed how the perceptive reading could emphasise the modernity of Owen’s approach. The broken-up lines and strange images, “the bullets chirped”, “the bayonets’ long teeth grinned” were emphasised by the reader so that they were almost cries of pain.

The fact that the young cast were about sixteen to eighteen in age, around the age many of the young soldiers would have been, made the whole piece more poignant.

For details of the company go to www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk
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