Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 interview: Simon Reade on Private Peaceful

This article is from 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 interview: Simon Reade on Private Peaceful

Photo: Jonathan Keenan

The director discusses Michael Morpurgo's WWI tale and 'Michael Gove's jingoistic revisionism'

To mark the centenary of the beginning of World War I, Scamp Theatre's award-winning adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful makes a welcome return to the Fringe.

Charting the life of young soldier Tommo Peaceful (Andy Daniel), a Devon-born private facing the firing squad, this is a poignant journey through the days that shaped him: early school memories, losing his father, falling in love and facing the frontline. Unsentimental and bracing, it brings an intimate perspective to the most brutal conflict of the 20th century.

Simon Reade, who adapted and directed Morpurgo’s novel, is sure that the centenary will add a new poignancy to the story. 'As a whole new generation of young people are doubly exposed to the ongoing political controversies of World War I – witness Michael Gove's jingoistic revisionism – they become painfully aware of the inhumanity of arm-to-arm combat that still rages across the globe,' he says. More than a period piece, Reade's production becomes a symbol of war's horror.

Having first staged the play a decade ago [the 2009 production was awarded five stars by The List], Morpurgo himself is closely involved with the production, often attending auditions, and is a close friend of Reade, who describes him as 'an inspiring collaborator, who has a keen eye and an astute ear for the theatre’. The success of War Horse might be ascribed to the puppetry, but Morpurgo's storytelling drives both the novel and its adaptation.

Bringing the horrors of war to a stage is a massive challenge, particularly when created for a mostly family audience, but Reade believes that 'no amount of high tech effects or blood and gore would ever be as effective as our imagination’.

Private Peaceful is a sensitive yet brutally honest evocation of the folly of war, through the eyes of a young man, and a life cruelly curtailed.

Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, 2–25 Aug (not 13), 2.45pm, £11–£12.50 (£10.50–£11). Previews 30 Jul–1 Aug, £7.

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Scamp Theatre Winner of the Blue Peter Book of the Year, Private Peaceful is by former Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo, award-winning author of War Horse. Private Peaceful relives the life a young WW1 soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night, he looks back at his short but joyful past growing up in…