Private Peaceful | Promise Adelaide80 minutes long, one man on stage and a rapt audience. His name is Thomas, Tommo, and he’s about to die. That’s no giveaway because he tells us that early on in this return season of the play, Private Peaceful, starring Ben Francis and sensitivelydirected by Rob Croser. Light and sound are spot on by Stephen Dean.

The very good programme gives us a background to this play, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo and adapted for the stage by Simon Reade. In World War One, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were executed by order of courts martial for ‘offences’, including desertion, cowardice, striking an officer, disobedience, falling asleep on duty or casting away arms. Thus it is that Tommo spends his last night in a cell awaiting the dawn and death.

Tommo is a country lad who, like so many others, at nearly 16, lies about his age to join up with his brother Charlie and, in those hours before he faces the firing squad, he talks about his life. Ben takes on myriad characters who have shaped him and does it extremely well. He is his dad, his mum, Charlie, his other brother Big Joey, Molly, the girl he loves, the bullying school master, a Sergeant Major, the old woman who taunts him to take the King’s shilling, Sgt. Horrible Hanley and those who called him “a worthless man”. This lad, before the war, had gone no further than his local school and a neighbouring town and it is a glorious adventure to get into before it’s all over and if Charlie’s going so is he. Reality has Tommo remembering its horrors – the rats, the lice, the rain, the stink, the mud – he used to like mud squelching between his toes – the dead and, in a gut wrenching couple of minutes he remembers the noise. The memory of two whole days of non-stop shelling has him curled up in a foetal position screaming, “Make it stop! Please make it stop!” Not to God. God’s gone. Tommo is gassed, buried alive, exhausted, terrified and, by the time he finds himself in this condemned man’s cell, he is 17.

Ben Francis is an extraordinary young man. He has packed so much into his life already and when he first did this show, he was 17, like Tommo. Now at 18, he is for the theatre-goer, one of life’s treasures and we are so fortunate that he is here in Adelaide. Don’t miss this show.

Ben Francis is going far so take the opportunity to see him now. Like last night’s audience, you too will be on your feet in homage to a great performance.

Promise Adelaide presents
Private Peaceful
by Simon Reade

Director Rob Croser

Venue: Bakehouse Theatre | 255 Angus Street, Adelaide
Dates: 4 – 14 April 2018
Tickets: $15 – $28
Bookings: www.bakehousetheatre.com

 

 

Related Articles

Igor Levit | 2021 Adelaide Festival Igor Levit | 2021 Adelaide Festival
I have heard many performances of this great work over the years, starting with Barenboim’s of the 1960s. But Levit’s gave me a new insight into it. “For his political commitment Igor Levit...
1:1 Concerts | 2021 Adelaide Festival 1:1 Concerts | 2021 Adelaide Festival
These concerts last just ten minutes, with the listener, the performer, and no-one else. I walk through the carefully sculpted grounds of Carrick House in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. I am...

Most read Adelaide reviews

The bewildering confusion between dream and reality begins before one takes one’s seat in the...


The cast of one is Robyn Nevin, and it was no surprise that her performance was riveting.


The revelation of this concert to me was that, yes, musicians, like audiences, have been starved...


What a Pulse the acrobats exhibited! What unanimity, what complicity in their formation and...


This long and interesting concert was structured around Schoenberg’s extraordinary setting of 21...