Birdsong Hall for Cornwall
Review by Miles Davis
THERE is a magical melancholia about Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong, a novel of love and war.
After millions of copies sold, and a BBC One dramatisation of the work last year, the British love affair with the story looks set to continue with a beautiful stage production on at Hall for Cornwall until the end of the week.
The play is set in northern France in the First World War and examines the limits of human behaviour from depravity and cowardice to heroism and the selflessness that sees men brought closer together in intense situations.
The lead character, Stephen Wraysford, when setting out his case for staying on the front line, says: "I have to see how far we can go and still call ourselves human."
The production skips sleekly between Wraysford's pre-war life as the guest of factory owner René Azaire and the lice-ridden filth of the trenches of the war. The stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff illustrates how the field of human conflict is not restricted to the battlefield and Wraysford finds himself irresistibly drawn to save Azaire's beautiful wife from the domestic abuse she suffers nightly.
In a time of great bravery the story of the sappers, the men who tunnelled beneath German lines, stands out as being particularly impressive.
The actors here, in a sparse set, capture the intense claustrophobia perfectly of being in a confined space, under pressure from all sides.
The performances were similarly stripped down and spectacular. Jonathan Smith's quiet rage as Wraysford points to a great future ahead but equally impressive was Tim Treloar as Jack Firebrace and his magnificent stoicism.
The show prompted half a standing ovation on Tuesday night in Truro – I think the other half were too stunned to move by the raw emotional power of this stunning piece of theatre.
Birdsong runs until Saturday – see www.hallforcornwall.co.uk