Edinburgh Festival Fringe: theSpace @ Niddry St
“Remarkable”, “exceptional”, “truly wonderful” ... George Stagnell’s one-man performance of Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful attracted five-star reviews, sellout audiences and standing ovations at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe.
Edinburgh Festival Magazine said it was a “stunning example of small-scale theatre in action” and praised the “ingenious use of lighting and sound, not to mention the haunting performance put in by George Stagnell”.
In a five-star review, it said Stagnell skilfully takes charge and is impossible to take your eyes away from”.
In another five-star review, the Edinburgh online magazine the Southside Advertiser said Stagnell’s “exceptional performance was funny, moving, and heart-breaking at times, and the entire audience, which included several children, was completely engrossed throughout”.
Blogger Charlotte Coster – a member of the Network of Independent Critics – said the production was “truly wonderful”. She said the “very talented Stagnell sucked you into the emotional story right from the beginning and you were left wrapped up in his/the story’s spell until the end”.
She also praised the companion piece Songs From A Shropshire Lad and the “heart-wrenching” performance by Sam Hird.
The Fringe run followed a week of previews in York that earned a five-star review from the arts editor of the York Press , who said it was a "remarkable performance" by George Stagnell, one of the finest acting talents he'd seen in four decades of reviewing.
Many people came up at the end of the Fringe performances at the Space on Niddry Street or posted on social media to say Private Peaceful was the best theatre they'd seen at the Fringe this year.
Michelle Hill posted on the Fringe website: “By far the best drama we watched at the Fringe this year! Superb acting that held the audience attention from the moment it started to the finish. Every scene and many characters portrayed by one brilliant young actor – George Stagnell. Miss it at your peril!!”
Jay Cundell Walker said: “Fantastic show. What a tour de force by the young actor whose energetic performance was totally engaging. Don’t miss this one, it’s ***** from me”
Luise C wrote: “A very moving and powerful one man piece of theatre. Well done to the young actor who played the different parts so well. Highly recommended.”
Izzy Bayley-Kine tweeted: “Storytelling at its most essential👍”
And Jim Robson said: “Quite the best piece of drama I have seen for years. Beautifully presented. Powerfully portrayed. “
Morpurgo's novel Private Peaceful, adapted for the stage by Simon Reade, did much to raise awareness of the injustice done to more than 300 men and boys shot at dawn by their own comrades for supposed cowardice or desertion.
It tells the story of just one of the quarter of a million teenage boys who marched off from Britain to war 100 years ago – enlisting, like Tommo, by giving a false age, inspired by the call to support King and Country ... and totally unprepared for the horror of modern warfare.
Pick Me Up Theatre's staging uses musical themes from Songs From A Shropshire Lad by George Butterworth, the composer killed in the Battle of the Somme – his death a huge loss to British music.
Butterworth's songs are settings of poems from the book by A.E. Housman that many young soldiers carried with them on the Western Front.
The teenagers in the trenches identified with Housman's Shropshire Lad and the themes of the fleetingness of life, love and loss, youth and death, and distance from home – the themes Morpurgo explores so movingly in Private Peaceful.
14-26 August 2017
Based on the novel by
Musical arrangements and piano
The History Bunker, Leeds
PR and marketing
CAST & CREATIVE
Michael Morpurgo's inspiration for Private Peaceful came from a visit to Ypres for a conference of children's writers and illustrators. He had been invited after the publication of War Horse, his earlier First World War novel that went on to huge success in the famous National Theatre production.
The conference was held in the war museum In Flanders Fields – and Michael was intrigued by a typed letter he saw framed up on a wall. He went closer and saw it was from a captain in the army to the mother of a soldier, informing her in just a few short lines that her son had been shot at dawn for cowardice. At that moment he could feel the mother's grief and pain and knew he wanted to know more about the soldiers who had been executed. He had to tell the story of one of them.
The result was Private Peaceful – a story that portrays both the horrors of war and the joyfulness of life.