By popular demand, the critically acclaimed Private Peaceful by Simon Reade returns to The Bakehouse Theatre for a strictly limited season this April.
Presented by Promise Adelaide and adapted from the celebrated novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse), Private Peaceful was nominated for four awards and went on to win the 2017 Theatre Association of South Australia's 'Best Drama' and' Best Youth Actor'.
Private Peaceful is the moving story of a young soldier killed by a firing squad in the First World War.
First published in 2003, Private Peaceful was awarded the 2004 Red House Children's Book Award, the 2005 Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, the Hampshire Book Award, and the California Young Reader Medal. Simon Reade's stage adaptation was first performed at the Bristol Old Vic in April 2004 and enjoyed sold-out seasons at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and London's West End before embarking on an extensive UK tour.
Private Peaceful examines the horrors of World War I and the unfair treatment of soldiers who were executed by firing squad for desertion or cowardice. This poignant subject matter provides an opportunity to learn about the trepidation of war through the first-hand account of a teenage soldier.
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.
Reade's one-man adaptation is a demanding and thought-provoking monologue which resonates 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. The story echoes the experiences of young people who are going through adolescence and into young adulthood. It reflects on family, loyalty and personal conflict. It considers duty and service, and the costs that can entail.
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. Although it became apparent that the clear majority were merely shell-shocked and suffering what is now called PTSD, it wasn't until 2006 that they finally received posthumous pardons after years of campaigning by their descendants. Trish Francis, producer, says "as with earlier productions, the name of every soldier executed will be listed in our program as a mark of respect. No longer will their sacrifice go unnoticed. 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."
Private Peaceful is directed by award-winning Adelaide Director Rob Croser, Artistic Director of Independent Theatre, and performed by emerging actor Ben Francis (Peter and Alice, Independent Theatre; Brideshead Revisited, 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".
Francis is 18 years old and was the same age as the character, Tommo, when he first portrayed the role. He developed a keen interest in wartime history after winning a Premier's Spirit of Anzac prize in 2015, which saw him represent South Australian youth in a trip to Gallipoli for the centenary of the ANZAC day landings.
Despite Ben's youth, he has exceptional acting skills and experience, which are utilised to the fullest extent as he acts out the many and varied characters in Private Peaceful, from his primary school sweetheart to his sergeant major. His youth maximises the impact of the piece and enables mothers, fathers and those of a similar age to Ben to identify directly with the character. Francis says "He is little more than a kid, having previously gone no further than the local school and neighbouring town. 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."
Reade's production conveys what the textbooks and museums cannot - the intensely personal tragedy and pity of war. This is an exceptional piece of writing and all theatre lovers should see this outstanding interpretation of the script. Reviewers agree:
"It is hard to overstate the quality of Francis' performance... His is a performance worth cancelling all prior engagements for... A stunning one-man debut". Peter Maddern, Krystoff Media
"This is an absolutely marvellous, flawless production... At only 17 himself, Francis gives a faultless and magnificent performance. He is spectacular, playing all the characters involved to a tee... If it ever returns, rush to see it". Brian Godfrey, Adelaide Theatre Guide
"This is why theatre lovers see as much as possible, because in amongst the mix of ho-hum, good and excellent there is a gem... and Private Peaceful is that gem". Maxine Gruebel, Stage Whispers
Private Peaceful returns to The Bakehouse Theatre for a strictly limited season from the 4th to 14th April 2018.
Wednesday, 4 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Thursday, 5 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Friday, 6 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Saturday, 7 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Thursday, 12 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Friday, 13 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Saturday, 14 April 2018 - 8:00pm
Sunday, 8 April 2018 - 3:00pm
Monday, 9 April 2018 - 10:30am
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 - 10:30am
Wednesday, 11 April 2018 - 10:30am