Theatre-goers turning up at Coulsdon Community Centre from Saturday might be entitled to ask themselves what they can expect from the local Theatre Workshop’s latest production.
1918: When The Guns Fell Silent is not a play, but there is drama.
It’s definitely not a comedy, although there is humour. It’s not a lecture either, though the writers and performers undoubtedly hope that you go away with a better understanding of the events of a century ago.
The latest production from Coulsdon Theatre Workshop begins its short run on Saturday, in this, the last year of suitably solemn commemorations of the centenary of the war that was supposed to end all wars.
The producers’ programme notes reveal, “When it was proposed last December, one of the biggest drivers was that this would be our last opportunity to explore the Great War and still be relevant to the centenary.
“We’d run Oh, What A Lovely War some years back, and we could have just reprised that, but we didn’t want to cover old ground. And we didn’t just want to look at the war in general.
“This is the 100th anniversary of 1918, and so we wanted to focus as far as we could on that specific year.
“Throughout January, February and yes, even March, we wrote dramas and narratives looking at subjects that the events of 1918 brought to the fore. Topics that interested and excited us. And we hope will interest and excite you too.”
The programme notes outline how the performance will play out: “Over the next couple of hours you will see them, interspersed with the poems of Sassoon, Houseman and others, along with songs either of the time or looking back at it, and a number of the ‘Forgotten Voices’ of soldiers who fought during the War.
“And yes, an episode from Oh, What A Lovely War. We follow a rough chronology, from January 1918 through until the modern day, hopefully showing that even now, the echoes of the war to end all wars continue to affect us.
“We haven’t managed to cover everything. There’s nothing here, for instance, about the exploits of the fledgling RAF, the first London Blitz or the Spanish Flu epidemic.
“What we do have is, I think, an attempt to show the human side of the conflict and that the soldiers of both sides were very much the same, in their hopes, expectations and experiences.
“It was a war that saw over 19 million deaths, military and civilian, and over 23 million other casualties, ultimately all for no real purpose. Maybe, even 100 years on, it’s not too late to learn the lesson of the futility of war.
But as George Ellison, the last British soldier to be killed in the war, and a character you will see in our performance says, ‘if we haven’t learned from this, we’ll never bloody learn…’.”
Given the events of the past month, it sounds like a most timely piece.
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