Birdsong is set on the Western Front in France, 1916-1918. While it is a love story it also transports you to the heart of the trenches and the gritty realism of life there. It tells the tale of an officer Stephen Wraysford (Jonathan Smith) who is injured and during his recovery has vivid recollections of a past love. At the other end of the ranks is a tunnel digger Jack Firebrace (Tim Treloar) awaiting letters from home and using his faith to get him through.
The entire cast is very strong with emotive and honest performances throughout. Jonathan Smith portrays the tormented and cynical officer and his alternative romantic side with intensity, swapping between the two instantly as his dreams of the past invade the present. Another stand out performance is given by Tim Treloar as Firebrace, the working man doing his bit for his country, his strength but vulnerability palpable throughout. A lighter note to the proceedings is supplied by Arthur Bostrom’s Berard, a family friend of Wraysford’s love Isabelle who is played with charm by Sarah Jayne Dunn.
A part of the success of the feel of this production is due to the lighting design by Alex Wardle. It brings the fixed set, which in itself has many layers, to life. The battle scene and the dim orange tunnel scenes are particularly memorable.
Compared to the depth and length of the first act the second felt a little rushed in places as the plot lines resolved. This however didn’t detract from a moving and stunning performance which showed the futility of war and one man’s search for love and reason.