Shows to highlight the theatre of war

Peter Duncan as Jack Firebrace and George Banks as Stephen in the powerful stage adaptation of Birdsong

Peter Duncan as Jack Firebrace and George Banks as Stephen in the powerful stage adaptation of Birdsong

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The Wyvern Theatre is set to commemorate the centenary of World War One with a series of major stage shows later this year.

The critically-acclaimed adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong will be first up at the Wyvern between Tuesday 1 and Saturday, July 5, followed by Horrible Histories’ brand new show, Barmy Britain, featuring a special World War One scene between Tuesday 16 and Saturday, September 20.

It comes as many groups around the town, and country, prepare to mark 100 years since the beginning of the four-year conflict, which resulted in a devastating loss of life.

Derek Aldridge, Theatre Director, said: “I am delighted that so many theatre companies, both local and national, are producing work inspired by the events of World War One during the centenary of the start of the conflict.

“Our audiences are promised some emotional and humbling stories which will, I hope, prove to be a fitting commemoration of this defining period in our history.”

The theatre has teamed with inSwindon, Holmes Music and Wiltshire Soliders to deliver a number of free events during the run of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong.

Before the opening performance, on Tuesday, July 1 at 7pm, there will be a free 30-minute concert in the bandstand opposite the theatre from the Military Wives Choir; while on Saturday, July 5, from 12.30pm, there is an opportunity to book a 10-minute slot with Wiltshire Soldiers’ Richard Broadhead who will help you investigate your family’s connection to The Great War.

And throughout the entire run there will be an exhibition of posters and propaganda promoting the drive to war.

Then, shortly before Remembrance Day, the Arts Centre will host the Phoenix Players production of Oh! What A Lovely War, on Wednesday 24 to Saturday, September 27.

A large cast sing, act and dance through the show, which uses popular songs from the 1914-1918 period.

Swindon Does Arts Hero Award winner Daphne Breakspear said: “We wanted to do it as a Phoenix tribute to the people who fought and died for our country during World War One.

“The show is like a chronicle of WW1 – it’s got humour and pathos – it’s got a little bit of everything in it.”

Other events include Twelve Ten Fifteen, on Friday, September 19, at the Arts Centre, which tells the harrowing story of Edith Cavell. Written by Clive Holland, directed by Mary Swan, the story of how she was shot by firing squad in Belgium for concealing and smuggling away allied soldiers is recounted on stage.

Then things go up a gear in November, as we near Remembrance Day.

The Royal British Legion's Festival of Remembrance will take place at the Wyvern on Sunday November 2 from 2pm, with performances from the Wessex Male Choir, the Western Players and the Goddard Park Primary School choir.

The following day, Monday, November 3, Scamp Theatre’s adaptation of Private Peaceful, the book by Michael Morpurgo, will visit the Wyvern Theatre.

The Western Players are back in action again between Wednesday 5 and Saturday, November 8 from 7.30pm in R.C Sheriff's Journey's End.

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