This review was originally written for The Public Review.
Being in the World War I trenches on Christmas Eve in 1914 seems impossibly remote from the hottest day of the year in 2013 London. This solo show combining the spoken word with theatre certainly does its utmost to immerse the audience in that world. It tells the story of the Christmas truce between the allies and German forces. The writing by Alex Gwyther, who also performs, is excellent: Anecdotes about friendships, sharing and loss; letters and packages from home; the camaraderie between the two sides sharing jokes, playing games all told in vivid language and with imagination. The balancing of details and scene setting is just right.. The poetry and rhythm of the text gently transport the audience into this world. There are a couple of moments in the first half which are slightly ponderous and truncated but the play soon kicks into a higher gear with more drama and action.
The performance by Gwyther is also tremendous and well directed by Tom O’Brien. There is a charming youthfulness which fits the naivete of the characters and justifies the sense of optimism in a very bleak situation. The characterisation and voices are clear and support the physical side of the performance well. The sound design by David Gregory and music composed by Darren Clark create an atmospheric background that doesn’t intrude the story but accent and support the words and performance. The surprising array of props which emerge from the simple set is very effective with the story telling and occasionally underlines the humour. If one of the purpose of theatre is to transport the audience into a different world, this is a perfect example of it.