Saturday, November 23, 2019

Private Peaceful – powerful writing performed with talent and conviction, a statement about what it means to be alive (PintSized Productions)

Simon Reade’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel Private Peaceful is a powerful piece of writing. And Odhran Mc Nulty’s portrayal of Private Tommo Peaceful is a joy to watch.

As Tommo counts down the hours to a grave event, he remembers a more carefree life before the Great War, growing up in rural Devon with brother Charlie and local girl Molly. Conflict changes everything and when he joins up at 16, pretending to be his older brother’s twin, the pair undergo the same gruelling training and are posted together to the front at Ypres.

The descriptive monologue fires up your imagination. Nuala Donnelly’s direction paints Mc Nulty across the full width of the stage and to its sides and front. He’s bristling with agitation and energy, his khaki uniform set against the black back wall of Accidental Theatre. His eyes are wide, sweat rolls off his brow as he delivers an intense performance, full of emotion and pace. That somehow there will be a reunion by one of the Peaceful lads with Molly sustains the audience’s hope that some good can come from amongst the terror.
“In the next room slept the two people I loved the most in the world … who had deserted me.”

Tommo’s remembrances are full of regret and disappointment. Spoiler alert: Morpurgo isn’t known for happy endings! Sensory overload is nearly tangible as the battlefield effects bolster the sense of panic in Tommo’s voice. (The use of Howard Goodall’s familiar The Lord is My Shepherd – the Vicar of Dibley theme tune – is anachronistic given that it was written in 1994.)

Simply staged but performed with talent and conviction, Private Peaceful is a statement about what it means to be alive. At a time when English nationalism is on the rise, the spirit of forced patriotism and brotherly love is very poignant.

Private Peaceful’s short tour continues with performances in The American Bar on Sunday 24 November at 3pm and Tuesday 26 at 7.30pm in The American Bar, Belfast and Wednesday 27 at 7.30pm in Sean Holywood Arts Centre in Newry.

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