TO HONOUR the centenary of the outbreak of World War One this slice of theatre brings home the horror and futility of war.
Every aspect of life, every nuance of emotion is wrung out like blood-soaked cloth in two and a half hours of absorbing drama.
To adapt Sebastian Faulks’ much-loved novel is a risky business.
But with Rachel Wagstaff in charge there is nothing to fear.
Praise must also be given to the director and producer Alistair Whatley whose clever use of lighting and the constant background noise of booming bombs and whistling shells immerses audiences into the trenches where soldiers come together and wait to live or die.
The audience follows the life and thoughts of Stephen Wraysford, played by George Banks as he goes over the top in the battle of the Somme and helps the tunnellers out.
George brings to life Faulks’ character and draws the audience into the peaks and troughs of Wraysford’s life from his overwhelming love for Isabelle Azaire (Carolin Stoltz) to the stench and lice of the trenches which pervade his being.
Flitting between trench life and his life in Amiens is seemless with George’s clever acting as he breaks from reality to his life before the war.
The story poses the question about hope and humanity during warfare and this is brought home by Jack Firebrace, played by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, whose zest for life is slowly broken down while he is in the depths of the trenches.
The climax came with an emotional address to the audience by Wraysford with his beautiful, yet heart-rending, tribute to the millions who have lost their lives to war.
Birdsong will be shown at The Rep until Saturday, March 22 for tickets call 0121 236 4455 or visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk