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Newbury Dramatic Society - The Local Heroes of 1914-18

13th July 2014

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Newbury's Great War


Newbury Dramatic Society: Local Heroes of 1914-18, at Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Sunday, July 13

This production covered the years of the Great War of 1914/18, as seen through the eyes of local people in the Newbury and surrounding areas.

Part of the Hungerford HADCAF festival, this performance was one of several in the surrounding areas and it told the story of the war mainly from the viewpoint of the women and children left behind.

It began with many women urging their men to volunteer and go off to fight for their country, with one young woman telling her boyfriend that she couldn't hold up her head in public if he didn't offer to go. If he did volunteer that day, she told him, she would make a man of him that night, but as he was one of the first to be killed in battle it could hardly be seen as much of a bargain.

Ruth Wheeler, Ruth Tibbetts, Jess Spath and Mandy Cole played the parts of many local women, working on farms, cooking and making do and carrying on as best they could as the men, horses and machinery went off to war, most never to return.

Jonathan Farminer played the ill-fated young man and an army officer, confessing that he needed a good few shots of whisky to kill the fear of getting out of the trenches and fighting. Alan Davidson played an old man left behind and the entire cast told anecdotes, quoted from real letters home and some uncredited poems and sang songs of the war such as Keep the Home Fires Burning and Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.

As an exercise in the horror and futility of war it worked fairly well, with the women screaming for an end to it all, long before the armistice. However, the Great War - boosted as a war to end all wars - ended nothing. Life was never the same again and the ending was not satisfactory.

To lighten the mood, perhaps, the show ended with a singsong of the old war songs as waitresses brought round cups of tea and cakes for us all. Ann Davidson devised and directed the performance.