In a nutshell
A gripping drama that offers explosive entertainment, quite literally, Rachel Wagstaff’s spellbinding adaptation of Birdsong explores individual losses and loves as a microcosm of the horrors of war.
Into the trenches
With 2018 marking the centenary of the end of WWI, Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ epic novel Birdsong explores a truly tragic period in worldwide history – which remains as moving and powerful today as ever.
A tale which showcases individuals’ pain against the wider backdrop of war and its inescapable misery, Birdsong seamlessly switches from love to conflict, past to present, and pre-war France to the German trenches – contrasting scenes which only highlight the horrors conjured by WWI.
Thanks to an incredibly immersive set, sound effects that were suitably jarring, excellent direction and a flawless cast, the audience was transported through time, space and stories, watching the internal and external conflicts develop around British soldier, Stephen Wraysford.
A war play wouldn’t be complete without evoking the appalling atmosphere that which luckily, we can only imagine, soldiers suffered – and Birdsong delivered sights, sounds and even smells that enveloped the audience even further into the action.
The numerous layers to the story were incredibly captivating; from Stephen and Isabelle’s fated romance and Lisette’s childish crush in France, to Jack Firebrace’s family fears and Tipper’s terror in the trenches, the cast delivered a performance that was as cohesive as it was compelling.
With a first half that built tension and terror, the action culminated with the fated soldiers heading into the Battle of the Somme. Particularly heart-breaking is the focus on the individual faces of war – their letters and sentiments for loved ones they may never see again.
The dust settles
While shrouded in tragedy, Birdsong was interspersed with moments of comedy, music, romance, child play and passion, offering a play that’s not merely about world war but personal battles that resonate with us all.
Thanks to the brilliant adaptation from Rachel Wagstaff and excellent performances, it was only too easy to feel the emotions of each character – in particular, Jack Firebrace’s emotional and physical pain was heart-breaking to witness.
Meanwhile playing the romantic hero turned front-line soldier, Stephen Wraysford’s tear-stained face perfectly symbolised the traumas of war, from which no one escaped unscathed.
Moments of singing and violin music enhanced the atmosphere – from the soldiers’ comradely songs to haunting melodies, the live music in Birdsong was beautiful and complemented the action perfectly.
Whether you’re a fan of the book, play, or first timer, don’t miss the chance to experience the beauty of Birdsong. A wonderful story, the play also offers an insight into WWI that, although heart-rending, needs to be told.
By Kathryn Purvis