100 years on and the emotions are still there underneath the surface from World War 1. And as part of the centenary year: events, productions and exhibitions are popping up all over the UK, each as a reminder of the great losses to each of the nations involved in the brutality of war.
This month saw the arrival of the National Theatre’s triumphant War Horse in Cardiff and it definitely did not fail to impress! Gracing the stage of the Wales Millennium Centre with it’s presence, the tale of Albert and Joey’s journey to the battlefield was beautifully portrayed and the incredible skill behind the puppetry and movement had the audience gripped from the opening bars of the score. As cliche as it sounds, the puppeteers simply faded in to the darkness, and the skill of the performers left me in awe.
Brought to life from the popular children’s book by Michael Morpugo, this is a tale focused on family, bravery and determination which never blames one side or the other or glorifies war. An emotional and incredible productional; finished off with a well deserved standing ovation from a sold out auditorium! It really was a wow moment, looking around to see everyone on their feet from school children to war veterans, absolutely amazing! (Sorry, I’ll stop being soppy now…)
Also, in South Wales at the moment is the latest site specific exploration from National Theatre Wales: Mametz. This time round, the location of choice is the beautifully scenic Great Llancayo Wood in Usk, Monmouthshire where the audience is transported to the Somme and the Battle of Mametz Wood. Concentrating on the 38th (Welsh) Division who lost 4,000 men, the audience is soon thrown into the action as we are lead through a trench on an ‘experience tour’ and taken back in time to relive history.
An emotional journey, as we enter the hearts of the soldiers and their families back home, seeing both sides of the battle from a very personal perspective, especially when the audience too are sent over the top and into No Mans Land… concentrating less on the action but more on the men as people: sons, fathers, husbands… Highlighted by the haunting final scenes where large photographs drape the floor and the trees of the forest. The scale of the site itself is simply incredible, and the gripping narrative from Owen Sheers, reignites the memories of those young men lost at war. It was really refreshing to see such a young cast taking on such a challenging subject matter and there were some incredible performances from all involved. National Theatre Wales have produced a mesmerising and moving commemorative production: creating an immersive experience rather than your standard night at the theatre!
Two incredible productions, both showcasing brilliant storytelling and staging and proving once again, that those who were lost at war will never be forgotten.
War Horse continues it’s run at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 19th July, while Mametz continues amongst beautiful scenery come rain or shine until the 5th July. Tickets for both available from the Centre. Two performances not to be missed this year!