I have a particular interest in World War One, so I was genuinely willing this piece of solo theatre to succeed. The idea is straightforward: a soldier reminisces about his time amongst a Scottish regiment in the Great War. The set is also simple, just performer Simon Waterfield and a chair, and so the show relies completely on Waterfield to keep the audience’s attention.
The story begins with the solider signing up, leaving his family behind, then moves through certain significant battles and ends with the fact that he survived the horrendous war. Sadly, though the material is rich in detail, it is more or less delivered as one long monologue and there is little difference in Waterfield’s intonation or expression at any point. Disappointingly, there was no real emotion in the re-telling of any of the stories, even when the “kilted Tommy” describes leaving his sweetheart Annie, or his very obviously deep comradeship with John and James.
Not once were there any real pauses or changes in pace to mark the poignancy of the deaths of the men he knew, and no time was given for any reflection in any of his speeches. When Waterfield described the story of one of his best friends being blown apart in front of him, or having to bayonet some injured German soldiers and the sight of “blood flowing out everywhere”, the words were potentially powerful but a lack of passion in the delivery created no sympathy. The only moment I saw a glimmer of emotion was in the last couple of minutes, when he was reciting lines from a famous poem about having survived such an experience.
One way to add a little more interest would be through greater physicality. The piece called for it throughout, and there were many moments that leant themselves to that opportunity. Perhaps there is a need for some stronger direction to help bring out the potential of the script.
From the detail in the content used, it was clear that Waterfield had researched his material thoroughly, but unfortunately he was not able to translate it into compelling theatre. When you are the only person on stage, you have to fill it, own it and hold the attention of your audience the whole time. There is a line from the play in honour of the dead and those that survived: “We shall be remembered.” It pains me to say that I'm not sure I will remember this show.