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My Grandfather’s Great War / War Notes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Seabright Productions and Tristan Bates Theatre present ‘The War Season’, comprising of two separate pieces: My Grandfather's Great War, a solo drama drawing from the diaries of Alexander Stewart an officer in the First World War and performed by his grandson Cameron Stewart; the other, War Notes a blend of vintage songs and modern-day war letters.

In My Grandfather's Great War, Stewart combines extracts from his grandfather’s diaries with his own reflections on life in the modern age and war in general. Stewart’s passion for his grandfather’s story is compelling but unfortunately his own interjections and reflections, while heartfelt, detract from the real heart of the piece, making it feel a little like a classroom lecture given by a somewhat eccentric professor. Stewart’s skill as a storyteller cannot be faulted – his agility both verbally and physically on the stage is wonderful to watch – and with more of that and less of the schoolteacher, My Grandfather's Great War could really come to life.

Lili La Scala, effortlessly accompanied by Michael Roulston, has a beautiful voice and is dressed perfectly for the part, displaying wonderful old world charm singing songs from both the Second and First World Wars in War Notes. The inclusion of modern-day letters from the front is interesting, especially paralleled with her choice of songs - and certainly emotive - but overall this piece lacks a real sense of unity and continuity.

There's much to enjoy in both offerings, but perhaps melding the two together to help Stewart escape his teacher-like leanings and to give La Scala a real focal point would create one really poignant piece of theatre rather than two that don’t quite hit their mark.


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