Sebastian Faulks’ bestselling novel Birdsong was first adapted for the London stage by Rachel Wagstaff. For its first national tour, a revised version is brought to the stage by The Original Theatre Company and Birdsong Productions LTD.
This epic story of love, hope, despair and courage follows Stephen Wraysford, a young army officer, who has to lead his men through the unprecedented horrors of the Great War. His only salvation is by clinging to the memory of his passionate affair with Isabelle Azaire, hoping one day to be reunited with her.
The current production, directed by Alistair Whatley, is immediately brought to life by the excellent cast of 12. Newcomer Jonathan Smith gives a fine performance as Stephen Wraysford, both as the tormented officer and in flashbacks of the lovelorn young man. Tim Treloar is outstanding as Jack Firebrace, a sapper who must face his own personal tragedies alongside the struggles of war. The remaining cast all give strong performances throughout.
The high quality set designed by Victoria Spearing cleverly intertwines the main Western Front scenery and also memories of pre-war France. The smooth flashback transitions between the trenches and 1910 Amiens enables the audience to delve into Stephen’s past and is a credit to the company’s teamwork. Both the sound and lighting enhance the atmosphere and along with the cast, ensures the audience is totally absorbed. The music and singing parts complete the raw emotion of life in the trenches and rare snippets of humour help lighten the mood.
Birdsong is a gripping tale full of emotion, which brings home the memories and true realities of war. To quote most of the audience leaving the theatre the production is ‘superb’ and is not to be missed!