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Sebastian Faulks’ harrowing novel Birdsong has been adapted for the stage and has its first run at London’s The Comedy Theatre . This play has a star line-up, with director Trevor Nunn, and many wonderful actors.
Birdsong follows a young man’s journey through a great love and a great war. The play is split into three sections. The long opening act concentrates on the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford as he visits Amiens and falls in love with a married woman, played by the rather stiff Genevieve O’Reilly.
I found the second two acts more convincing than the first. After the interval Birdsong shows the vile horror of World War I, like I have never seen it portrayed before. Every aspect of the painful anguish and devastation is realised through haunting acting and clever dramatics. The stage is impressively constructed to show the claustrobic tunnels and trenches, and smoke effects create further atmosphere. Just before the second interval a great clash and cloud of powder wafts over the audience, an incredible sensation and evocative transition to mark the start of the war.
I loved watching Lee Ross who plays one of the central characters, Jack Firebrace. The kindness and bravery of this character within the turmoil of war gives the story real strength and substance, and Ross’s characterisation reflects this with a touching morality.
I left feeling moved and educated, and now would like to read the original book.
With Remembrance Day in London tomorrow, the show feels particularly poignant.
The play continues until 15 January 2011. Book Birdsong tickets here.