Private Peaceful (Tobacco Factory)

Private Peaceful builds to a devastating finale at the Tobacco Factory.

Private Peaceful
Private Peaceful

Poonamallee Productions’ Private Peaceful, adapted by Simon Reade from Michael Morpurgo’s novel, is an ideal introduction to World War I for older primary school children and young teenagers. It tells the story of Private Tommo Peaceful who spends his last night on earth remembering everything of significance that has ever happened to him from his first day at school in Devon to the terrible events leading up to his court martial amid the horrors of trench warfare.

On a stage bare except for a simple bed William Troughton performs the monologue with passion and conviction. He is Tommo and all the people who have been part of his life, from his beloved elder brother Charlie to the malign Sergeant Hanley. Family is a constant theme through the play.Tommo is very close to his brothers and it is his refusal to leave the wounded Charlie that gets him into trouble. As the end approaches Tommo comforts himself with the thought that his family knows he is not the ‘worthless man’ his accusers claim. Morpurgo’s evocation of a Devon childhood before the Great War makes subtle points about class and religion and Tommo’s emotional turmoil when faced with the true nature of his brother’s relationship with their friend Molly is particularly touching.

War and military life come across powerfully.The recruiting sergeant who comes to Tommo’s local market town knows just how to beguile young men with talk of ‘the Hun’ and the likelihood of success with women. The scenes of various futile attacks and bombardments are vivid and gripping, made more so by Jason Barnes‘ sound design and Howard Hudson‘s lighting. Director Simon Reade uses the space well and one is occasionally taken aback to realise there is just one man on the stage so compellingly physical is Troughton’s performance. The cruelty and incompetence of the ruling class and the decency of ordinary soldiers on both sides are well-worn themes but handled freshly by Morpurgo and Reade. The last few moments are devastating.