Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Adapted by Simon Reade
Director: Simon Reade
Reviewer: John Roberts
There is no question that Michael Morpurgo is a Literary giant, many of his books have already been translated for the stage and are successfully touring or receiving the West End treatment.
This production of one of Morpurgo's more emotional books (perhaps because its protagonist is human rather than a cat or other animal) has already won critical acclaim when it toured in 2006 and received a short West End run at the Trafalgar Studios.
For this current tour, Simon Reade has gone back to basics, stripping out most of the props that were littered throughout the production and with this new found freedom of bare stage, (apart from a gold gilded bed which is used very creatively during the performance) the story has once again become the centrepiece.
Telling the tale of Priavte 'Tommo' Peaceful as he relives his memories of childhood games with his brother Charlie and Big Joe, his love for Molly his brothers childhood sweetheart and his memories of the near misses in war to his first real drunken night out. This production takes on a change of ending that is different from the original but this does not distract or take away any of the raw emotion that charges through the original book.
Director Simon Reade should be congratulated in finding such a talented individual to play Tommo; Finn Hanlon is no stanger to Murpurgo's work having performed in the world premier production of The Scarecrow and the Servant at the Southwark Playhouse over the Christmas period. Hanlon brings bags of enthusiasm and energy to the text, and he handles the 20 plus characters with real panache, making sure each character is strong and recognisable. This is no mean feat. but to do it to an audience of 500 people, where the majority were school children and keep their attention so focused on the material that you could hear a pin drop should be highly commended.
This is theatre at it's finest and Murpurgo I am sure is a happy man, given the fact that his prize winning book has been given such a sensitive and highly charged emotional treatment from both director and performer.
Private Peaceful is halfway through a national tour, dates can be found by clicking here