This Evil Thing (4 stars)

This article is from 2016

This Evil Thing

A moving and dynamic retelling of a hidden story from the last century

There were 16,000 conscientious objectors who opposed fighting during WWI. This one-man show, written and performed by award-winning Fringe actor Michael Mears, tells the tale of one of these brave 'conchies'.

In this urgent and physical performance, Mears plays tribute to Bert Brocklesby – a schoolteacher who refused to bear armsand was silenced, starved and almost shot. Mears convincingly intersperses historical re-enactment with his own self-questioning, even asking what he would have done, had he been born at the time.

In the cold face of war, Mears thinks he might not have been so brave. But his play is his own daring ode to the 16,000. Mears does their plight justice in a series of gritty displays of the violence faced by these men. The set of simple wooden boxes is used in innovative ways to create makeshift prison cells, court rooms and trenches.

Mears himself is exhilarating to watch. He hares across the stage, convincingly being about four different men at once. And the play is rooted in Mears' own life. Photos of his father and grandfather are on the sideboard, both of whom served in the World Wars. This is a rich and personal modernisation of a lesser-told tale.

New Town Theatre, until 28 Aug (not 16, 23), noon, £11 (£9).

This Evil Thing

North Country Theatre present the compelling and inspiring story of the men who said no to war. From a chapel in Yorkshire to the House of Commons, from a cell in Richmond Castle to a firing squad in France, the questions raised here are as relevant and urgent as they were 100 years ago.