Skip to main content

The 306: Dawn

Dalcrue Farm, Perth
Five stars

In a barn outside Perth, three young men are being forced to face up to their unplanned, unwanted and heartlessly unnecessary destiny in Oliver Emanuel's meditation on the 306 men executed for cowardice in World War One. As brought exquisitely to life in Laurie Sansom's impressionistic music theatre staging, this epic co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, World War One centenary art commissioning project, 14-18 NOW, and Perth Theatre in association with Red Note Ensemble belatedly honours the dead.

Emanuel's play focuses on three of the men; Harry Farr, Joseph Byers and Joseph 'Willie' Stones, and shows the human frailties behind their eventual fate. From a shellshocked Farr's final moments with his young wife Gertrude, to Byers' enthusiasm to join up, all three men are brutalised by the institution they so loyally served.

Seen between the hours of 2.30 and 4am, the action moves across five stages which are raised above designer Becky Minto's complex network of catwalks and framed by a platform fenced by trees carved into the shape of rifles. Sansom's swansong as artistic director of the NTS shows off his ability to navigate a cast around such a vast expanse in a way that makes every moment matter.

As well-drilled ensembles go, the nine actors are more than a match for the highly choreographed chutzpah of Black Watch, that other war-based dramatic collage that first put the NTS on the map. Here, however, the imagery drawn from Emanuel's writing is gentler and more vulnerable as it betrays . the fear and horror of cannon fodder packed off to a foreign land, with some of those fighting for a cause they could barely comprehend not long out of short trousers.

It is driven too by the sweep of Gareth Williams' score, in which the actors part sing their lines accompanied by Red Note Ensemble members, pianist Jonathan Gill, cellist Robert Irvine and violin player Jackie Shave. Josef Davies, Scott Gilmour and Joshua Miles play Harry, Joe and Willie with an unerring grace in this most brilliantly moving of elegies.

The Herald, May 30th 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…

The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.
It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a deca…

This House

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Five years is a long time in politics just as it is in the theatre. When James Graham’s epic reimagining of one of the most pivotal eras in late twentieth century British democracy first appeared in 2012, its depiction of the aftermath of the 1974 hung parliament in Westminster chimed with a then current coalition. Half a decade and a couple of referendums on, Graham’s dramatic whizz through to 1979’s successful vote of no confidence in the Labour government now looks like a warning.
Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’Boyle’s touring revival of a production first seen at the National Theatre begins with both sides of the House marching en masse in their grey suits and twin-sets down the aisles of the auditorium before cutting a well-choreographed rug in formation. As the Labour and Tory whips mark out their territory away from the chamber, this proves to be one of the few moments of unity in a breathless yarn that picks at the old-school gentleman’s agree…