Thursday, December 11, 2014

'The Christmas Truce' by Phil Porter

11 December 2014

On Tuesday we were at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to see the RSC's Christmas show. 'The Christmas Truce' is a new play by Phil Porter, directed by RSC Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman, which explores the 1914 truce between British and German troops. The story is told through the eyes of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, focussing on some real life characters with connections to Stratford. It is informed in particular by the journals of the cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather, who served as a machine-gunner in the regiment (and was also involved in installing the first electric lighting rig in the old Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford). It's a lovely, thoughtful, moving and inspiring show – avoiding (with a family audience in mind) anything too gruesome, but never shying away from the painful reality of war. The horror of going 'over the top' is realised with some amazing lighting effects. And the moment when the first British soldier makes his nervous, tentative steps into no man's land to greet his German counterpart in cautious friendship is beautifully done. The legendary football match is portrayed with humour and passion, but the abiding analogy here is cricket, with each fallen soldier bowling himself off the stage and an ever-present cricket scoreboard ominously recording the regiment's dead as wickets lost.

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