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Previewed 18 September 2010, Opened 28 September 2010, Closed 15 January 2011 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
A major stage production of Sebastian Faulks' novel Birdsong in London adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and directed Trevor Nunn.
While staying as the guest of a factory owner in pre-First World War France, Stephen Wraysford embarks on a passionate affair with Isabelle, the wife of his host. The affair changes them both for ever. A few years later Stephen finds himself back in the same part of France, but this time as a soldier at the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest encounter in British military history. As his men die around him, Stephen turns to his enduring love for Isabelle for the strength to continue and to save something for future generations. Birdsong is a beautiful and terrible story about love, courage and the endurance of the human spirit.
The cast for Birdsong in London features Ben Barnes as 'Stephen Wraysford' with Genevieve O'Reilly as 'Isabelle' along with Owain Arthur, Billy Carter, Joe Coen, Nicholas Farrell, Florence Hall, Jack Hawkins, Paul Hawkyard, Gregg Lowe, Iain Mitchell, Lee Ross, James Staddon, Annabel Topham and Zoe Waites. The production is directed by Trevor Nunn with designs by John Napier, costumes by Emma Williams, music by Steven Edis, sound by Fergus O'Hare and lighting by David Howe.
"Unlike the original novel, this pared-down version subscribes staunchly to the cliche of the first world war as a wretched, futile conflict between two arrogant European powers, in which decent, obedient working-class 'donkeys' were sent over the top by the callous, blustering, stupid, redfaced officers, who then sat safely back and watched the carnage... Yet a huge proportion of men came back from the war disinclined to talk much about the horrors they had fought through, but never in any doubt that it had been a war worth fighting... As for the lions and donkeys thing, it's worth remembering that a staggering 97 generals were killed in action between 1914 and 1918, and that more major-generals died at the Battle of Loos than in the entire second world war. Despite having its moments, and some class acting, Birdsong lacks historical empathy and imagination, preferring easy cliches and lazy myths." The Sunday Times
"Sebastian Faulks's brilliant epic novel Birdsong, which is about love and war, sold three million copies... and is an A-level set text... [In] Rachel Wagstaff's leaden stage adaptation and Sir Trevor Nunn's clunking production... nothing is suggested or dramatised; all is spelled out, by spotlit characters reading to the audience from letters and diaries. Horror is conveyed by shouting very loudly. The cast members look wretched. Maybe it's the lice. Like the soldiers in the Somme, they're lambs to the slaughter. The book remains a must-read, but give this play a miss. Frankly, I'm shell-shocked." The Mail on Sunday
Birdsong in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 18 September 2010, opened on 28 September 2010 and closed on 15 January 2011.