Following its 2010 London production, Rachel Wagstaff – the adapter of
Sebastian Faulks’ widely-praised novel – has returned with a revised
adaptation of Birdsong. The play switches between the trenches of World War I and the memories of Captain Stephen Wraysford of his relationship with
Isabelle Azaire. This helps to create a digestible story that moves along at
a good pace. The combination of the romantic story and the horrors experienced
during the war makes the play into a very poignant experience.
The actors who carry the show are Jonathan Smith as Stephen
Wraysford, and Tim Treloar as the “sewer rat” tunneller Jack Firebrace and
the story follows the pair as the war takes away whatever they hold dear. Sarah
Jayne Dunn is a reserved and tortured Isabelle Azaire and the relationship of Isabelle with Wraysford comes across as a sensuous one. The rest of the cast play a variety of characters and many have their moments, including Charlie G Hawkins as Tipper nervously singing a song whilst waiting to go over the top at the Somme.
The set shows the devastation of No Man’s Land, and the production team does
well to show a tranquil Amiens of 1910 amongst the rubble of war. The
constant transitions between the two periods create the feeling that Stephens is shifting between a dream and reality.
Taken together, the story and the strong cast mean that I wholeheartedly recommend that you see this fantastic production.