Private Peaceful – Pavilion Theatre – Review
Wed 10 – Sat 13 May, 8pm
Verdant & Pemberley Productions present Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
We meet Private Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful when he is a child. It is his first day going to school and his older brother Charlie comforts him. When he finally goes into the classroom, his teacher asks him to sit beside a young girl by the name of Molly. She has beautiful chestnut coloured hair and Tommo instantly falls for her. In these few brief moments, we are introduced to the three main characters in this piece. We are brought on a whistle stop tour of the formative moments of Tommo’s short life before he travels to France to fight in the First World War.
This play is based on the novel for children/ young adults written by Michael Morpurgo, first published in 2003. Morpurgo is possibly best known for his novel Warhorse (1982), which was later adapted for the stage and also made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg in 2007. This production is directed and adapted for the stage by Simon Reade, who was the Artistic Director of the Bristol Old Vic and also the Literary Manager of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It is a much smaller production than Warhorse and features only one cast member, with Shane O’Regan playing all 24 characters. He changes quickly between innocent children and old hags, and everything in between. The stage is also very simple with only an army bed centre stage. There is impressive use of lighting (Anshuman Bhatia) to help the actor create the various scenes and settings required.
The novel this play was based on is aimed at children and the story is quite a simple, straightforward one. It takes a surprisingly long time before he finally goes to war, and the first half of the play centres on his early life and childhood. While this was unexpected, it does work well and the complexities of his family life are worthwhile. With a duration of 90 minutes, it is a very impressive performance, one which shows endurance and great versatility by O’Regan. It is extremely difficult to command an audience’s attention for that length of time, but his energy level never dips as he tells the story through a wide range of characters. He has long been an actor that stood out in the various productions he was involved with. With this play, he finally takes centre stage and will receive the praise he deserves.
Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire – May 9 – 13
Everyman, Cork – May 15 – 18
Garter Lane, Waterford – May 19 & 20
Civic Theatre, Tallaght – May 22 – 27
Town Hall Theatre, Galway – May 30 & 31
Glór, Ennis – Weds 31 May
Visual Carlow – Thursday 1 June
Riverbank Arts Centre Newbridge – Friday 2 June