REVIEW: Birdsong, Connaught Theatre

Birdsong opened at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, yesterday
Birdsong opened at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, yesterday

WORLD war one drama Birdsong has been turned upside down and inside out in Rachel Wagstaff’s new adaptation.

Her West End version of Sebastian Faulks’ moving novel stayed true to the structure of the book and told the story in a chronological order.

At the end of its run, Wagstaff wanted to take another look and decided to centre the story on the battlefield, with the story of love found and lost from his earlier years interspersed as flashbacks.

The Original Theatre Company took on the project and created a set which worked for all scenes, incorporating tunnels and trenches as well as houses and a hospital.

It opened at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, yesterday, for a week-long run, starring Peter Duncan as Jack Firebrace, George Banks as Stephen Wraysford and Carolin Stoltz as Isabelle Azaire.

It took a bit of getting used to at first, but Banks used carefully choreographed movement techniques to make it clear he was moving through time, so once you got the hang of it, it was easy to follow the changing time-frame.

Faulks’ skill in exploring human relationships was dutifully retained by Wagstaff, not just between the lovers but between friends, comrades and family.

The multi-talented Duncan demonstrated his core acting skills as Firebrace, showing both strength and tenderness.

Inevitably, Wagstaff has not been able to tell the whole story from the book because there basically just isn’t time. As it is, she has put in so much of the story that some parts are flashed through quite quickly.

But the whole piece worked well, drawing us into the horrendous conditions for the young soldiers and the futility of so many of the battles.

Fittingly, charity collections are being held at every performance to raise money for Help for Heroes.

Birdsong runs at the Connaught Theatre, in Union Place, Worthing, until Saturday. For ticket information, visit www.worthingtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01903 206206.