Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Edinburgh Review: Private Peaceful at Underbelly, Bristo Square

Private Peaceful 
Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300)
14:45 / 1hr 15mins
Reviewed on 15th August 2014

To mark the centenary of World War I there has been a wave of theatre that looks back on the Great War. Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful has been staged at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Private Peaceful relives the life of Private Tommo Peaceful, a young First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night he looks back at his short but joyful past growing up in rural Devon: his exciting first days at school; the accident in the forest that killed his father; his adventures with Molly, the love of his life; and the battles and injustices of war that brought him to the front line.

Here all roles are played by Andy Daniel, a huge ask in this 75 minute production, but Daniel throws himself into a monologue with gusto, portraying every character Tommo comes across. The power of his performance is most clear in the final act of the play, where Tommo is confronted with the reality of his court marshall and it is here that Daniel really shows his skill as a performer. 

Reade's direction keeps the pace at lightning speed, however can often feel exhausting, not allowing any moment for the audience to process the material until the end. With very little visual aide other than Daniel's costume and metallic bed frame on stage, I wonder what Reade hoped to achieve with a theatrical retelling of this story. The moments where it really comes alive are where Jason Barne's sound design helps to add various layers to Daniel's performance which makes it feel that the piece would be better suited for radio, allowing the audience to truly imagine the horror of the situation without being disturbed by the constant pacing and often clunky mime. 

Reviewed by Dan Phillips

Private Peaceful runs at Underbelly, Bristo Square until Monday 25th August 2014. Click here for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Keenan

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