Outside the grand entrance to the Station Hotel, a row of ten women stand in silence. Some hold wooden placards, which are tellingly blank and slogan free. As welcoming committees go, it's a powerful pre-cursor to the second part of Oliver Emanuel's 306 trilogy of plays, designed to open up the largely hidden history based around the 306 British soldiers executed for cowardice during World War One.
Where the first part focused on the men themselves, this follow-up looks at the lives of the women left behind and forced to fight battles of their own. Where Gertrude struggles to survive once her husband is killed by the state, Mrs Byers waits in vain for a letter from her son, also a victim of the government. Mrs Byers' daughter Nellie is a munitions factory firebrand, whose husband is in prison for being a conscientious objector, but who won't be silenced, whatever the cost.
Jemima Levick's production is a beautifully conceived construction, which weaves together Emanuel's patchwork of stories performed by a cast of six on Becky Minto's portable set of multi-purpose wooden tables. At the play's centre is Gareth Williams' aching cello and piano score, played live in this co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, Perth Theatre and Stellar Quines by Robert Irvine and Laura McIntosh of associate company, Red Note Ensemble,.
As Angela Hardie, Dani Heron, Fletcher Mathers, Steven Miller, Wendy Somerville and Amanda Wilkin belt out a mix of fiercely defiant chorales, they unveil a litany of lesser known war crimes. They also unleash a collective power that needs to be reclaimed with every passing day.
The Herald, May 8th 2017