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First World War on stage: top shows celebrating the Armistice Centenary

We round-up the top shows commemorating the Armistice

Clockwise from top left: The Trench, Women of Aktion, Arinzé Kene has curated Remembrance and Billy Bishop Goes to War
© Clockwise from top left: Rah Petherbridge, Karol Wyszynski, Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage and Charles Aitken

This year is a century since the First World War ended, with 11 November being the Armistice Centenary. To mark the occasion, a variety of shows across the country are presenting work commemorating, analysing and reacting to the war and its lasting impact on the world. We select some worth getting a ticket to.



Brass

Benjamin Till's new musical has its world premiere at the Union Theatre in London, set between the front line and Leeds, it follows an amateur brass band who enlist to fight together. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre, the show looks like it'll be a great chance to see a new musical about an important topic. Union Theatre, 31 October to 24 November



Billy Bishop Goes to War

Billy Bishop
© Charles Aitken

Charles Aitken and Oliver Beamish star in this revival at Jermyn Street Theatre, produced by Proud Haddock. The show tells the story of young Bishop, aged 20, who becomes a Candian hero and fighter pilot. The piece hasn't been seen in London in almost 35 years so well worth trying to catch it while it's here! Jermyn Street Theatre, 31 October to 24 November



Speak Your Peace

Something a bit different here. Key playwrights including Roy Williams, Suzi Ruffell and April de Angelis have written monologues exploring civil resistance and protest since 1918 in response to the Armistice. Rather than being performed live, the monologues can be watched online here.



Bury the Dead

Bury the Dead
© Scott Rylander

Finborough Theatre hosts the first professional UK production in over 80 years of Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead, an expressionistic protest play about six dead soldiers who stand up in their graves and refuse to be buried. Brilliant concept, we can't wait to see the results. Finborough Theatre, until 24 November



Women of Aktion

The Women of Aktion
© Karol Wyszynski

Bent Architect puts the women of War front and centre in their new show – based on accounts of the Kiel Mutiny and the beginning of the German Revolution. With a neat framing device (the show imagines what might have happened had Joan Littlewood and the anarchist German playwright Ernst Toller been the ones exploring the mutiny), this looks like a fascinating exploration of a forgotten legacy. Tour to Canterbury, Manchester, Halifax, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Sheffield



Crossings

Crossings
© Kirsten McTernan

New Perspectives and Pentabus bring to life an unexpected story of male soldiers turning to cross-dressing to cope with the war experience, juxtaposing accounts with life in Sarajevo in 2019. The piece has a national tour until 24 November with more dates to be announced. UK tour, visiting countries including Herefordshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland until 24 November



The Unreturning

The Unreturning
© Tristram Kenton

Anna Jordan teams up with Frantic Assembly to present The Unreturning, about the impact of war over the last 100 years. The piece is out on a UK tour and will have a few days at Birmingham Old Rep before returning in 2019. The Old Rep, Birmingham



Return of The Unknown

Return of The Unknown
(© Caleb Simmons)

The Marlowe Canterbury is spearheading an epic event from 8 November at Dover Marine Station – the location where the Unknown Warrior (an anonymous unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War, symbolic of the thousands that died) touched back down on British soil in 1920 to be interred at Westminster Abbey. More than 640 performers, aged from eight to 80. Over 1 million wounded British soldiers used the port to return home from the war, meaning the performance has a poignant edge. Dover Marine Station, 8 to 11 November



Not About Heroes

Not About Heroes
(© Catherine Ashmore)

Stephen Macdonald's 1982 tale of poetry, war and kinship between two war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, is revived in a new touring production produced by James Seabright Productions. The piece has a quick and well-timed spell at Wilton's Music Hall to conclude its two-year tour. Wilton's Music Hall, 31 October to 11 November



Remembrance

Arinzé Kene
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

The Old Vic has presented a variety of one-off evenings entitled One Voice over the last year, and on 4 November Misty's Arinzé Kene will curate an evening of monologues reflecting on the post-war legacy. Writers include Rachel De-Lahay, Monica Dolan and David Ireland, with performers including Inès de Clercq and Jade Anouka. Old Vic, 4 November



The Trench

The Trench
© Rah Petherbridge

Les Enfants Terribles revive its hit show The Trench, about an ominous odyssey into a monster-filled subterranean No Man's Land in time for the Armistice at Southwark Playhouse. Blending the company's top-notch puppetry and design with a knack for quirky storytelling, this is a show reflecting on the war in a slightly left-field manner. Southwark Playhouse, until 17 November



Soldier On

Soldier On

Jonathan Lewis writes and directs this new musical at The Other Palace, arriving in London after a sold-out national tour. Workshopped with British servicemen and women and their families over a five year period, the piece is performed by a cast composed of ex-service personnel as well as professional actors. The other Palace, until 24 November



Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful
© Jonathan Keenan

Michael Morpurgo's wartime novel is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, and there has been a stage adaptation around for almost as long, but the piece feels all the more pertinent given the timing. The show follows a young boy, Tommo, whose best friend Charlie is unjustly charged with cowardice. UK tour, to Waterside Aylesbury, Bolton Little Theatre and Theatre Royal Winchester



Forgotten

Forgotten

The Armistice is a vital time for reviving plays about unheard stories during the war, and Yellow Earth and Moongate have done exactly that with Forgotten 遗忘, directed by Kim Pearce. Following 140,000 Chinese labour corps who trekked to the Western Front during the First World War (working behind the front lines), you can read writer Daniel York Loh's blog on the piece here. Arcola Theatre, until 17 November



The Wipers Times

The Wipers Times
© Kirsten McTernan

Nick Newman and Ian Hislop's First World War-set love letter to the medium of print (the play being about a satirical newspaper created on the Western Front) originally ran a couple of years ago but now returns for a second run at the Arts Theatre in central London. Our critic described the show's original run as "elegantly structured, wonderfully theatrical and perfectly paced" in a five-star review, and we're sure it hasn't diminished with time! Arts Theatre, until 1 December



War Horse

War Horse
© Brinkhoff/Mogenberg

The iconic production of War Horse, originally created by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris from Michael Morpurgo's best-selling novel is back at the National for a couple of months as part of a major UK tour. If you haven't had the chance to see the brilliant show yet, then now's the chance, with extra pertinence! National Theatre, until 5 January

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