Review: Birdsong

Peter Duncan as Jack Firebrace and Roger Martin as Barclay inf Birdsong' Pic: Jack Ladenburg
Peter Duncan as Jack Firebrace and Roger Martin as Barclay inf Birdsong' Pic: Jack Ladenburg
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World War One. A brutal, bloody slaughter.

* * *

King’s Theatre, Leven Street

A hopeless, needless campaign that sent hundreds of thousands of ordinary young men - many of them simple grocers, clerks and schoolboys - to an early grave.

A subject so ingrained within the fabric of Britishness, so romanticised, it’s virtually impossible to mess up any dramatised story associated with it.

Indeed, Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulkes’s novel certainly encapsulates everything you might expect from such a period piece: the grimness of the trenches, the heart-wrenching letters from home, the depressing futility of it all.

However, the focus of the story, the tempestuous relationship between a superstitious English officer Stephen Wraysford (Edmund Wiseman) and opportunistic married French industrial heiress, Isabelle Azaire (Emily Bower) never quite hits its emotional target.

A tad overlong, the absurd ping-ponging of scenes between life on the Front and flashbacks to Wraysford’s doomed romance jar after a while.

Ironically, it’s the story behind Peter Duncan’s character, Jack Firebrace, a man trying to secure leave so he can visit his seriously ill son, that resonates more.

It’s just a shame the emphasis is placed upon Wraysford, an aloof, hard to like personality.

The testimonies of those holed up in the trenches and tunnels offer a glimpse into other characters, but their stories are, just like their time spent on this earth, all too brief.

Visually, however, Birdsong is a feast for the eyes and you can almost smell death. Even the sounds are climactic and unexpected. It’s only when you hear the melodic chirping of birds flying over the French fields that you truly appreciate life’s simple pleasures.

Ultimately, Birdsong serves as a timely reminder to the atrocities of WW1 rather than an entertaining romance story. Something you might want to bear in mind.

Run ends Saturday