Credit: Ahron R. Foster

Adapted by Simon Reade from the YA novel by Michael Morpurgo, this solo
show recounts the last hours in the life of a young British private in the
First World War who is about to be executed for cowardice. Peaceful’s
crime: daring to think for himself. He’d wanted to carry his wounded
brother to safety and tried to reason with a sadistic sergeant eager to
send his men on a suicide mission against German machine gunners.

As in his better known YA novel War Horse, Morpurgo captures well in words
the terrible world of trench warfare. Shane O’Regan, under the direction of
Reade, brings the war to life. Performing on a mostly bare stage-the only
prop is a small bed which, stripped of its mattress, doubles as the barbed
wire in no man’s land-O’Regan quickly proves himself to be an energetic
chameleon of an actor, capable of creating Peaceful and all the people in
his life-his brother, a Belgian barmaid, his mates in the army-with equal

The last third of Reade’s adaptation is riveting. Poor Peaceful endures gas
attacks, foolish assaults, pathetic retreats, and nearly constant
bombardment. The first half of this 80 minute show is slow going, though,
as Morpurgo takes pains to describe in detail Peaceful’s idyllic early life
in a small village in Devon. These scenes are sweet, but would have taken
on a greater poignancy if the audience was clued in earlier to the sheer
hell Peaceful would face in the war.   v