REVIEW: First World War told through poignant family tale

Private Peaceful is a stark look at the horrors of the First World War through the eyes of a young soldier.

Private Peaceful is a stark look at the horrors of the First World War through the eyes of a young soldier. - Credit: Manuel Harlan

REVIEW: Private Peaceful at Norwich Theatre Royal. 

The First World War cost the lives of up to 40 million people, soldiers, and civilians across multiple countries.

But somehow, more than 100 years since its conclusion, it has become known as the "forgotten war."

Private Peaceful however shines a light on this tragic event through the eyes of a young soldier as he battles with the struggles of war.

The play has been adapted from Michael Morpurgo's 2003 novel of the same name.

Daniel Rainford plays Thomas "Tommo" Peaceful.

Daniel Rainford plays Thomas "Tommo" Peaceful. - Credit: Manuel Harlan

It follows 24 hours in the life of Thomas "Tommo" Peaceful, played by Daniel Rainford, as he looks back on his life while sitting in the front lines.

The two-hour play covers Tommo's life from a child - witnessing the death of his father - to his time falling for the same girl as his brother before finally setting up for the heart-wrenching twist ending.

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Daniel Boyd, who plays Tommo's older brother, Charlie Peaceful are the stars of the show reprising their roles of a family living in rural Devon to fighting in No Man's Land.

The other five actors play multiple parts with great range throughout the play and switch in and out of their era-specific costumes seamlessly. 

From left to right: Daniel Boyd, Liyah Summers, Daniel Rainford, Emma Manton in Private Peaceful 

From left to right: Daniel Boyd, Liyah Summers, Daniel Rainford, Emma Manton in Private Peaceful - Credit: Manuel Harlan

One of stars of the night has to go to the imaginative lighting and set which transports the audience between the home front and the frontline.

Actors emerge from the stage's dark and dingy spaces which expertly transition from the beautiful countryside to the war-torn battle front.

This, coupled with the amazing sound design, captivates the audience into feeling like they too are in the trenches.

A standout aspect of Private Peaceful was the stage and lighting.

A standout aspect of Private Peaceful was the stage and lighting. - Credit: Manuel Harlan

Writer Simon Reade has done a great job at adapting Morpurgo’s novel for the stage.

The two acts are split between telling both a love story, and a moving account of growing up in a rural community prior to 1914, before switching into the horrors of the First World War battlefields that killed millions of soldiers.

Overall Private Peaceful delivers stellar performances from the entire cast and crew - providing a stark look into the horrors of war which so many young soldiers had to endure.

Private Peaceful transitions between a soldier living his young years in a rural community to his time in the front lines.

Private Peaceful transitions between a soldier living his young years in a rural community to his time in the front lines. - Credit: Manuel Harlan