Special play marks war date in France

Unique play will pay tribute to the soldiers of the First World War in November. Left to Right: Sandy Notman, Maurice Shorter, Nick Ashman, Dave Barney, Bill Kimber, Maggie Crane, Jon Wainwright, Nancy Shorter and Judy Notman

A theatre group from the Gers is commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War with a unique, original play based on their families’ histories.

The idea for their play came from one of their lighting technicians whose grandfather was killed at Passchendaele, said English Theatre Company president Philip Faiers.

“He asked us if we could write something for the centenary. So we asked members if they had any stories from their grandparents and we have been able to weave all the tales together to make a narrative that runs for an hour."

The main thread is the tale of Ben, based on the technician’s grandfather, and his fiancée. As much is inevitably sad, the play is broken up with songs like Pack Up Your Troubles and the audience will have song sheets to join in. There are also poems and extracts from Wipers Times, which was the newspaper read by the troops for some light relief (it was called Wipers because it was difficult to pronounce Ypres).

One company member found a letter from his grandfather which alluded to the ‘Christmas truce’ when German and allied soldiers downed weapons and played football. The soldier wrote that he drank brandy, given to him by a German.

After the play there will be a ‘mess supper’ of chilli con carne served in a mess tin.

The British Legion will sell poppies and profits from the play will go to it.

There will be two performances on November 9 at the Salle des Fêtes, Sainte-Dode and Novem­ber 10 at the Salle des Fêtes, Caillavet, at 18.00. Tickets are €12 including food (book on 05 62 67 12 99). Details from info@englishtheatrecompany32 and englishtheatrecompany32.fr

The company was founded in 2016 and has so far put on plays including A King’s Speech and Under Milk Wood.

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