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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Private Peaceful

The Beacon Theatre Group

Genre: Drama

Venue: Augustine’s


Low Down

Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Private Peaceful’, adapted for the stage by Simon Reade, tells the story of the relationship between two brothers, thrust onto the front line during World War I.  It is a story of love and war, and a touching and gripping tale.



The Beacon Theatre Group, of fifteen or so child actors aged around 9 – 12 years, deliver an engaging and imaginative performance of Private Peaceful, the tragic story of a young soldier on the front line.

The piece is nicely directed and the staging successful, if occasionally predictable, with the company utilising the aisle in the auditorium confidently, and the central character, Tommo, taking his place in an atmospheric pool of light on the two small steps that run from one side of the stage to the other.  The lighting for the piece is simple and effective, supporting the changes of scene with precision and atmosphere.

Some of the company’s attempts at stylised physical theatre are lost in translation, and occasionally just in need of more commitment from the performers (such as the clap which is passed along a line of actors to represent the passing of time) but for the most part are successful and emotive, and the focus moves tidily from one scene to another.  At times the company’s brave choreographic attempts fail due to a lack of focus on the part of a small handful, who struggle to feel entirely comfortable in their stylised roles. 

Poignant bursts of ‘Oranges and Lemons’ are sung with boldness, if a little out of tune now and then.  The actors are of vastly varied ability but the play is well cast, with the stronger of the young actors playing the meatier parts, and with many of the ensemble doubling up to play multiple roles.   Particularly admirable are the young actors who play Charlie, Tommo and Joe, along with Mrs Peaceful and Molly, all of whom who deliver heartfelt and considered performances.  The actor playing Tommo is especially compelling, and his more heart rendering moments are conveyed with a subtlety beyond his years.  A few members of the cast however, are quite unconvincing in their roles, and sadly, poor projection is a recurring problem, with much of the audience straining forward in their seats to hear.  Sergeant Hanley, often pulls this one out of the bag, barking his orders with enough gusto to inspire the rest of the cast to follow suit, if only for a little while.

The costumes for the piece are simple and consistent, without being too regimented, and suit the story well, aside perhaps from Mollie’s rather alarming red toenails and Charlie’s fringe which often masks his eyes!

On the whole, the audience, which also includes a number of children, are attentive, and their applause at the end reflects their obvious enjoyment of the piece. 

Aside from the odd weak performance, this dramatic, touching and well paced piece of theatre is delivered with eloquence that one has to admire in a cast so young.