In this year of remembrance, a year which has been, and will continue to be, commemorated by huge budget productions, Hollywood movies and lavish TV dramas, here is a simple, one man show that encapsulates all the emotion, drama, life and death of the Great War. It is so perfectly delivered that to watch it is to be transported through the innocent eyes of a young boy in the wide rural expanses of pre-war Devon countryside and into the battle weary claustrophobia of the front line trenches. There are no huge sets, no painted scenes and no other cast, but through Andy Daniel's brilliant acting you are left feeling that you have just sat through an epic life story movie.
In the first act, Andy Daniel effortlessly paints pictures of school yards, huge rolling estates and intimate haystacks, all with the warm, Halcyon days glow of eternal summer sun and the innocence of youth. Turning to the second act, he strips bare the human emotions, darkens the skies and covers everything in mud and blood as he drops the story's hero into the madness and injustice of the Ypres trenches. Torn between the expected blind obedience and his love for his brother, Tommo falls not to a German bullet, but as so many other young soldiers did, to the British Army high command and their inhumane use of the charge of cowardice. So powerful was the ending that we left the show with the hangover of unfairness still souring our mouths and a heaviness in our hearts of knowing how true this outcome often was.
A great performance which will serve as a perfect example of storytelling for young actors and seasoned hands alike, Darlington Civic theatre have opened their Autumn season with the bar set very high; here's to many more shows of this calibre over the coming months.
Private Peaceful is at Darlington Civic Theatre until Saturday 13th September.