Stephanie Ann Cooper (age 10 years) went to see Private Peaceful at the Greenwich Theatre (now on tour).
This is a story about a boy called Tommo Peaceful. It’s about the First World War and about how young working-class men in Britain were taken for granted by their bosses and expected to kill young German working-class men. All these people were innocent, it was not their war.
Tommo is the only person in the play. There are lots of characters whom Tommo acts out while in a prison cell waiting to meet the firing squad who are going to kill him the next morning.
The firing squad is not the German army who are meant to be the enemy but the English army, the side Tommo has been fighting for. He spends his last night on earth reliving his 18 years of life.
Tommo comes from a poor family but he had some touching memories of times with his brother Charlie and his girl Molly. He relives his time in the trenches. This is harsh and powerful. He tells us about the German soldier who holds a rifle to his head, looks him in the eyes and says “Go, get out of here!” He then turns to the audience and tells us about his brother Charlie, who has been badly injured by a grenade and cannot walk.
Tommo decides to disobey orders from ‘Orrible ‘Anley, the sergeant major, and says he won’t go into “no man’s land” because he knows they would all be shot down by the Germans. Tommo carried his brother Charlie on his back all the way to the base camp. For this he was court martialled. He told the truth, but they said he was a coward even though he had fought in the war for two years.
The play ends as Tommo leaves his prison cell at dawn. Off stage you hear the roar of the rifles as Tommo’s life is taken by people on his own side. I highly recommend this play; if you can’t get to see the play, at least read the book Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo.