When a ‘dress’ rehearsal goes as well as it did last Saturday, it is hard not to wish away the hours until we can at last present this year’s World War One Commemoration programme to our audience. The script – poured over for so long, meticulously edited and tweaked by so many hands – on Saturday came ‘live’ at last. For the first time, we could take possession of our lines and of the imaginative spaces we will be trying to conjure for the audience.
We are now not just readers of our script, but its inhabitants.
The programme features poems by Richard Aldington, Vera Brittain, Wilfred Gibson, AP Herbert, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon , Alan Seeger and Edward Thomas as well as prose testimonies from some of the servicemen and nurses who shared the griefs and horrors of the Western Front.
War and the pity of war….the words in our 1917 programme are obliged to tell of almost unimaginable waste and suffering, but all the way through we are also trying to convey a parallel story of harrowed compassion and companionship. Images of the stretcher bearers crossing the wasteland of Passchendaele ….. the extraordinary Benda drawing of the soldier carrying a wounded ally …. soldiers clustered round to try to pull a pack animal from clutch of the Flanders mud …. .the archival photographs seem to have become more and more eloquent, and more central to our programmes year on year.
The war photographers, like the doctors and the nurses, worked among their subjects, knowing how many of those who were well and waving to the cameras when they clicked the shutter would soon be among the wounded and the dead. Nurse Vera Brittain tried to capture this sense of helpless sympathy in The Troop Train, but not even the best of the poems can bring us as close as the photographs to the men being transported to and from the Flanders front.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
Guest readers : His Worship the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Ian Gilchrist; Betty Suchar, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution Chair of Management; Ann Cullis, Bath & North East Somerset Senior Arts Development Officer
Technical tower of strength: Councillor Rob Appleyard, Lambridge
Lead singers : Bella Eliot and Andrew Lawrence from the Walcot State Choir
Readers : Sara-Jane Arbury, Stephanie Boxall, Sue Boyle, Mark Eliot, Brian Goodsell, Dawn Gorman, Caroline Heaton, Sue Sims, Harry Thurston, Shirley Wright
Compiled and Scripted by Sue Boyle
FULL DETAILS OF THE PROGRAMME ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE.