The South Australian premiere of Private Peaceful comes to the Bakehouse Theatre for a strictly limited season this May.
Presented by Promise Adelaide and adapted by Simon Reade from Michael Morpurgo’s celebrated novel, Private Peaceful is the moving story of a young soldier killed by firing squad in World War I.
Although fictional, Private Peaceful closely resembles reality. British and Commonwealth military command executed 306 of its own men during the Great War. Many of those executed were little more than boys: four of them were only 17. Private Peaceful follows the last night in the life of 17-year-old Private Thomas ‘Tommo’ Peaceful as he reflects on his short, yet joyful past: growing up in rural Devon; his exciting first days at school; his father’s accident in a forest; his adventures with Molly, the love of his life; and the battles and injustices of war that brought him to the front line.
This demanding and thought provoking monologue portrays war from the point of view of an ordinary country soldier. Being performed shortly after ANZAC Day it will resonate with young and old alike. It is the story of a young boy growing up; it’s also about the little man fighting against something that the state and the world order is imposing upon him. It reflects on family, loyalty and personal conflict. It considers duty, service and the costs that was can entail. Although a stark and devastating subject matter it is nevertheless funny, heart-warming and poignant. Private Peaceful conveys what the text books and museums cannot – the intensely personal tragedy and pity of war.
“I’ve had nearly eighteen years of yesterdays and tomorrows, and tonight I must remember as many of them as I can. Tonight, more than any other night of my life, I want to feel alive!”
For 90 years, the names of those executed were blighted. They received no medals, were never mentioned in memorial services, nor did their grieving families ever receive a pension. It wasn’t until 2006 that they finally received posthumous pardons after years of campaigning by their descendants. Trish Francis, the producer, says “… for many years, the families of those soldiers who suffered this fate were filled with shame and embarrassment. They should be proud, as are the descendants of any soldier who sacrificed their life for King and Country. This is a story that needs to be heard.”
Private Peaceful will be directed by Rob Croser, Artistic Director of Independent Theatre and performed by emerging actor Ben Francis (Peter and Alice, Independent Theatre; Cloudstreet, State Opera). Croser says, “I have loved the Michael Morpurgo novel since I first came into contact with it. He is a master storyteller and it is a real privilege for me to be able to work on his story with such a wonderful young actor as Ben”. Although often portrayed by an older actor, Francis is himself just 17, maximising the impact of the piece and enabling mothers, fathers and those of a similar age to Ben to identify directly with the character. According to Ben, “…most 17-year-old boys today are worrying about what grades they will achieve in year 12, partying and experimenting with sex and alcohol. This young man, and those he represents are fighting for their lives and their countries.”
Bakehouse Theatre: May 4th, 5th, 6th @ 7:30pm May 6th @ 2pm May 3rd, 4th, 5th @ 10:30am* $28 adult and $25 concession *schools performances TICKETS: BAKEHOUSETHEATRE.COM