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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow For the Trumpets Shall Sound
For the Trumpets Shall Sound
Published on Tuesday, 06 August 2013

3 stars

C venues - C aquila (venue website)
1-17 Aug, 6:45pm-7:45pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

As we look back at the horror of the First World War, it’s tempting to reduce it to a few clichéd images: the trenches, the gas-masks, the poppies in no-man’s land. But this well-presented play conveys a far more nuanced tale, seen through the eyes of two young officers on the front line. So of course, we witness the suffering, and the constant threat of loss – a tragedy that’s all the more affecting because it’s so resolutely underplayed. But we also learn another side to the wartime story: the happiness at landing a decent billet, the all-too-brief leave in Paris, the pleasure to be found in a trip to a restaurant and a glass of rough wine.

The plot revolves around the two landed-gentry soldiers, and a nurse – cousin to one of them – who’s tending the wounded from the front line.  At first it’s all desperately conventional, almost to the point of parody.  There are stiff upper lips.  There’s an awkward romance.  They all talk a lot about tea.  But then, something quite unexpected happens, and you suddenly realise that all that woodenness was there for a reason: to cast our minds backwards into the world as it existed a century ago, so that the surprise which is coming seems as shocking now as it would have done then.

It’s really rather clever – though it does come at the price of a somewhat tedious opening.  From the moment of revelation onwards though, the cast have more freedom, and they use that licence well.  Together, they create a quietly affecting portrayal of a group of damaged people, struggling to make connections with each other in a terrifying and alien world.  My favourite among the group is the repressed lieutenant – but it’s a fine performance from all of the actors, who prove you don’t need to raise your voice to convey a sense of inner trial.

The brand-new script does leave a couple of avenues unexplored.  A pair of lovers sacrifice their relationship with surprisingly little hesitation, and I felt the ending was snatched-at, closing the book too quickly on what’s just occurred.  But we do get some well-executed imagery of going over the top of the trenches, and a particularly compelling scene where the façade finally crumbles, as the reality of war strikes home.

All in all, this is a pleasingly straightforward production, laid on with a fine eye for detail.  The staging is elegant but unobtrusive, leaving the focus exactly where it should be: on the characters’ stories and their words.  We never lose sight of the horror of war, but it’s really a play about three people’s everyday lives.  As the Great War fades from memory, we should cherish pieces like these.

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