Leitheatre at war with Accrington

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THE Great War, regarded at the time as the war to end all wars, is the setting for Leitheatre’s latest production, Peter Whelan’s The Accrington Pals, which opens at the Church Hill Theatre, next Wednesday.

First performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1981, The Accrington Pals is a fictional account of life in the trenches and on the home front, contrasting the experiences of the soldiers on the front line with those of the women left at home in Accrington.

Based on the real life ‘Accrington Pals’ unit, a group of enlisted soldiers who headed to war in innocence and ignorance to fight for their country and the experiences of the women left behind to grieve their loss, Whelan’s play is inspired by the real tragedy of the ‘Pals’ at the Battle of the Somme.

It explores how the propaganda machine shaped public opinion and how those left behind adapted to new patterns of life, drawing together in the face of social and sexual deprivation.

Funny and sad, the play paints a moving and powerful picture of the changes in civilian life during wartime.

Director Alan Jeffreys says, “Although I am interested in the Great War anyway, the reason I was attracted to this play was because it took a look, not strictly at the soldiers’ lot, which is quite well known, but the effects of war and loss back in the UK.

“It highlights the subtle, and not so subtle forces that changed society forever between 1914 and 1918, touching on important arguments proselytised by the suffragettes, and also the whole issue of accountability in a democracy.

“Above all this however, there are poignant similarities to the present day, when regular losses in Afghanistan bring home the horror of war to mothers, wives and girlfriends in a way not really seen since WW2 and Korea.

“Because of this factor, I believe the play will strike a cord, as all good historical plays should, with current emotions.

“History repeats itself, but do we ever really learn from past mistakes?”

The Accrington Pals, Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road, Wed-Fri, 7.30pm, Sat matinee only 2.30pm, £9, 0131-668 2019