Edinburgh Festival Fringe: theSpace @ Niddry St
Two special shows are being staged at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe to remember and pay tribute to the thousands of teenage boys who fought and died in the First World War 100 years ago.
The first is a powerful one-man version of Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful – the novel that did so much to raise awareness of the fate of the young British soldiers shot at dawn by their own comrades for supposed cowardice or desertion.
The play will appear alongside concert performances of George Butterworth’s Songs From A Shropshire Lad – settings from the book of poems by A.E. Housman that many young soldiers carried with them in the trenches. Butterworth himself was killed in the Battle of the Somme – his death a huge loss to British music.
Musical themes from Butterworth’s songs are used in the Fringe production of Private Peaceful, where George Stagnell plays 17-year-old Tommo Peaceful – and all the people he’s known – as he relives his life in his last hours before dawn. In previews in York, Stagnell earned a five-star review from the arts editor of the York Press, who described it as a “remarkable performance” by one of the best young talents he’d seen in three decades of reviewing.
George Butterworth’s Songs From A Shropshire Lad reflect the themes of love and loss, the fleetingness of life and the folly of war that made Housman’s poems so popular with young people 100 years ago. They’re the same themes that have made Private Peaceful connect so powerfully with young readers today.
The songs will be performed by baritone Sam Hird – an 18-year-old who combines great acting and interpretive skills with a magnificent singing voice that belies his youth – and pianist and composer Sam Johnson, who arranged and plays the music for Pick Me Up Theatre’s production of Private Peaceful.
Both shows are at theSpace venue on Niddry Street, just off the Royal Mile. Private Peaceful runs from 14-19 August at 9.55am and 21-26 August at 4.35pm and tickets are available at the Fringe Box Office. Songs From A Shropshire Lad is on at 6pm from 21-26 August – you can buy tickets for the Monday performance at the venue, and all other performances from the Fringe Box Office.
It’s an opportunity to witness two astonishing works that capture the mood and nature of a young generation whose hopes and lives were destroyed by war.