OUTSIDE the theatre, a soldier in combat fatigues sits patiently behind a wall of sandbags. Stern and alert, he appears too young to be wielding a rifle. In fact, he looks like a teenager who should, instead, be sitting behind the goals at Tynecastle, clutching a Hearts scarf.
“This is a game we just have to win” it reads on the billboard to his right. But this is no football match. This is WWI.
An emotionally-charged musical based on local battalion, McCrae’s Own, Farewell My Son is a moving account of four friends who leave their families behind for the bloody trenches of war-torn Europe in 1914.
And it all starts on the football pitch, where teams such as Hearts are attacked in the press for banging in goals instead of banging in bullets against the Hun.
Inspired, Sir George McCrae galvanises his sporting legion into becoming unwitting cannon fodder in a gargantuan slaughter.
It’s painful, of course, and none more so than for the women, for it’s as much their story as the men’s.
But it’s not all downbeat: the camaraderie, the romantic spats between lovers, the sojourn to a French brothel. All provide some light relief amidst the sorrow.
Much of this magic, though, is down to Steve Potter’s music and lyrics. It’s been seven years in the making for Potter, and you can tell every chord, every word has been carefully weaved together. It helps that the young MGA Academy cast have a couple of future stars onstage, too.
Yet what would make this already powerful musical even better, would be to hear Potter’s music performed by a full-scale orchestra. A full-scale production is surely in the offing?
The best scene, however, comes at the end, on the Somme. As poignant as the final moments of Blackadder Goes Forth, the audience were on their feet applauding before the cast could deliver their bows. That said it all.
Runs ends tonight