Plans are underway to tour Birdsong again – a mesmerising play of love and courage, set both before and during the Great War.
A new tour of Rachel Wagstaff’s stage play Birdsong, adapted from the novel by Sebastian Faulks, begins on 4th February 2015 at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon and announced dates so farinclude His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen on Tuesday 10th February for a week-long run, the Civic Theatre, Darlington, The Playhouse, Liverpool and The Old Vic in Bristol.
The production, which will then tour until June 2015, is set in pre-war France where a young Englishman, Stephen Wraysford, embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire that turns their worlds upside down.
As the war breaks out, Stephen must lead his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme and through the sprawling tunnels that lie deep underground.
Faced with the unprecedented horror of the war, Stephen clings to the memory of Isabelle and the idyll of his former life as his world explodes around him.
The 2013 and 2014 tours of the play were hugely successful and critically acclaimed, seen by over 130,000 people and receiving four and five star reviews.
Sebastian was thrilled the show was re-mounted to tour again, and has said: “Both Rachel and I want this to be the definitive version of Birdsong on stage. The audience watch it and think, thank God I have never undergone all of this.
“These experiences are far outside the lives of most people but there is something about the way the production works which makes people identify and think, it could be me…”
Rachel is currently co-writing two screenplays with Sebastian, one for Eleventh Hour Productions, and the other for Bob & Co, and she is also under commission to write a new musical for Vicky Graham Productions/Old Vic Productions, and writing a stage play for The Original Theatre Company.
“Sebastian told me I was bonkers,” recalled Wagstaff of her proposal to adapt Birdsong for the stage in an interview for The Independent in 2010. “But I’d been interested in the First World War from the age of 14.
“It was the poetry that drew me in,” she revealed. “It was [Wilfred] Owen, it was ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, it was when I learnt that he had died the week before Armistice Day and that his mother got the telegram on Armistice Day; there was something so pitiful about it. I lost a brother when I was younger, and there was something about learning about all these young boys who died when it could have been stopped, and seeing the bewildering effect on a family at the loss of a son, a brother.
“Yet it was only when I read Birdsong, when I was 17, that I realised what it might have been like to be an individual caught up in it. And knowing that the last few veterans are dying out, that Harry Patch, the last British survivor from the trenches, had died, makes it all the more important to keep these stories alive.”
Rachel adapted Sebastian’s novel, The Girl at the Lion d’Or, for Radio Four (Woman’s Hour), and When I Lost You, an Afternoon Play for Radio Four, co-written with Duncan Abel, was featured on Pick of the Week last year.
Birdsong is again directed by Alastair Whatley, with set design by Victoria Spearing, lighting by Alex Wardle for Charcoalblue and sound by Dom Bilkey.
• For details of the tour visit www.birdsongthetour.com
• Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon – 4th – 7th February 2015
• His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen – 10th – 14th Feb
• Buxton Opera House, Buxton – 17th Feb – 21st February
• Northern Stage, Newcastle – 23rd- 28th February
• To be Announced Soon! – 2nd Mar – 7th March
• Civic Theatre, Darlington – 10th Mar – 14th March
• The Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford – 16th Mar – 21st March
• The Lighthouse Theatre, Poole – 24th Mar – 28th March
• To be Announced Soon! – 30th Mar – 4th April
• To be Announced Soon! – 6th Apr – 11th April
• The Playhouse, Liverpool – 14th Apr – 18th April
• The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – 21st Apr – 25th April
• The Old Vic, Bristol – 27th Apr – 2nd May
• The Old Vic, Bristol – 4th May – 09th May
• West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds – 12th May – 16th May
• West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds – 18th May – 23rd May
• To be Announced Soon! – 25th May- 30th May
• To be Announced Soon! – 1st Jun-6th June
• The Courtyard Theatre, Hereford – 8th June- 13th June
• The Lyceum, Crewe – 16th June – 20th June