YOUNG actor James Tanton sees his latest role as the challenge of a lifetime.

He stars - indeed, is the only cast member - in an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful which comes to the Wyvern Theatre on Wednesday, October 2.

Regarded as a modern classic, Morpurgo’s award-winning story focuses on a World War One soldier facing execution after being falsely accused of cowardice.

James, who spent some of his childhood in Salisbury, has a CV which ranges from short film work to performing passages of Shakespeare on demand for tourists in Stratford-upon-Avon.

He relishes the task of conveying the tragedy of Private Peaceful to a live audience.

“The range of emotions that I go through in one-and-a-half-hours is like living in fast-forward mode - exhausting,” he said.

“I relive my exciting first days at school; my adventures with Molly, the love of my life; the accident in the forest that killed my father; the battles and injustices of war that brought me to the front line and then, of course, what I must face.

“I feel so fortunate that I have been given this opportunity so early in my career. I am determined to give it my all.

“During my background research on this period in time, I discovered the amazing stories of young soldiers from the Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War.

“This has given me a wealth of inspiration for the play.

“It was truly shocking to learn how young some of these soldiers were - some as young as 14.”

Director Andrew Alton is very impressed with James’ abilities and commitment.

He said: “Working with one actor is the dream as a director - it takes away all the distractions that a large company of performers brings, and puts the focus on the task in hand.

“However, I do feel sorry for the actor, James Tanton in this case, as they have nowhere to hide their imperfections. With it just being the actor and the director the process is intensive and relentless, not to mention the line-learning!

“I am lucky, though, to be working with a talent such as James.

“With many years of experience under his belt working with companies such as the Birmingham Stage Company on the Horrible Histories stage show, he is perfect for bringing the fictional life of Private Peaceful to the stage.

“I have seen a great actor turn into an exceptional actor over the course of rehearsals and I am pleased audiences will get to see the rewards of his hard work and dedication to the role.”

Andrew feels an affinity with the play because of a poignant memory he has carried for many years.

“’You do not look, you see. You do not hear, you listen and you pray God sees you out of the corner of his eye.’

“I will never forget those words of a World War I soldier at an exhibition in the Imperial War Museum in London as a child.

“For the first time I began to understand the trials and horrors these young men faced, whilst acknowledging the harsh reality that war is no game.

“However, this realisation awoke a thirst for knowledge for the period which has culminated in directing of this play.

“My aim with this piece is to transport you, the audience, back to the early 20th century and truly immerse you in the era of the Great War, informing and entertaining along the way.”

Rather than a conventional drama, Andrew sees the play as a conversation with the audience.

Tickets for the performance, which starts at 7.30pm, cost £18.50, and concessions are available.

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