George Stagnell as Private Peaceful in Simon Reade's one-man play based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo


John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate,  York

George Stagnell mesmerised audiences and earned standing ovations – and a five-star review in the York Press – with his "remarkable performance" as Private Peaceful in this powerful one-man version of Michael Morpurgo's moving story.


George played Private Tommo Peaceful – and everyone he meets in his life – in the play, adapted from the novel by Simon Reade.


George’s previous work for Pick Me Up includes the roles of  Dakin in The History Boys and Leon Czolgosz in Assassins. He also directed Pick Me Up's much-acclaimed productions of Dogfight and Les Miserables.

Michael Morpurgo's inspiration for the story 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 novel which at that time had not achieved the success it went on to achieve through the incredible 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. 

14-18 March 2017

Performed by

George Stagnell


Written by 

Michael Morpurgo

Adapted by 

Simon Reade


Mark Hird

Lighting and Stage Design 

Adam Moore

Musical arrangements and pianist 

Sam Johnson


Ian Thomson

Set Construction

Robert Readman, Adam Moore, Ian Johnson


Jane Carr, Teresa Carr


Justine Hughes


Adam Moore and Ian Thomson created a constantly changing world of sound and lighting on a simple wooden stage that helped George evoke the joys of life and the terrors of war.

Sam Johnson devised and played piano arrangements based on themes from George Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad to provide sensitive and beautiful musical punctuation between scenes. Butterworth – who was regarded as one  of Britain's greatest composers in the making – was killed on the Western Front in 1916.

Photos: Will Jackson