An American theatre company has created a multi-media performance which bears witness to the cataclysmic events of World War One and pays tribute to the tragic losses of human potential on all sides.
The Boston-based TC Squared Theatre Company has taken the war’s iconic poetry as well as letters, journals, and novels, written by the men and women whose lives that were either lost or forever changed by this first global conflict of the 20th Century, to create the spoken word script that serves as the centrepiece of the work.
The script is enriched by projected images – archival film footage and still photographs, as well as artwork produced either during the war (paintings produced on the frontlines) or in response to the war in the years that followed.
Modern music was commissioned, complementing the spoken word script, dramatic choreography, and projected images.
The music serves to underscore the tension between modern technological warfare and the outmoded weapons and strategies of earlier times – a tension experienced with such tragic results on the battlefields of The Great War.
Artistic Director Rosalind Thomas-Clark sees The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of Bitter Truth as a powerful companion piece for academic institutions whose students are studying the history of the war as well as for museums and libraries that will be mounting exhibitions during the war’s centenary.
Power of theatre
“The concept is simple. The motifs are clear. Telling the story of this war through dramatised text, video, music, and movement reinforces the power of theatre as an entry point for audiences to experience and understand an event that changed our culture and history and ultimately the way we now live our lives.”
The work has had as significant an impact on the actors as on its audiences. Douglas Williams, a 12-year-old who appears in the work’s background video wrote:“The Great War Theatre Project helped open my eyes to something that has echoed in the back of my mind.
“I have always thought of war as a distant, foolish game, in which players battle it out for strange reasons. A place where an unfortunate few honorably die. Learning about The Great War Theatre Project showed me the true nature of war. War is a brutal event in which lands lose their beloved people, their dreams, and even their sanity. All while doing the same to others.
“I, as a child, do not fully understand the motives for this brutal thing. But [this experience has] pushed me to gain a better understanding of war.”
The piece had its’ first performance in April at Boston Playwright’s Theatre, sponsored by Dr Arianne Chernock, professor of history at Boston University.
Executive Producer, Susan Werbe, said: “We have been so pleased and so moved by the response to GWTP to date.We look forward to performing this important work in the autumn of this year at The Boston Athenaeum and are in conversation with schools and institutions – both in Boston and New York – for additional performances during the centenary years.”
There are also hopes of bringing the piece to the UK to be performed.
Posted by Mike Swain, Centenary News
Press release from Susan Werbe, Executive Producer.
Photography By Phyllis Bretholtz