British Tommy: Robin Hemmings in rehearsal for War Game at the Bristol Old Vic. Pic: Chris Cooper
British Tommy: Robin Hemmings in rehearsal for War Game at the Bristol Old Vic. Pic: Chris Cooper

War Game. Bristol Old Vic
This production of War Game was the perfect example of how to stage a one person play. Although with Rebecca Marie Loxton on stage working the music and sound effects at a desk tucked in the corner technically there was a cast of two.
Robin Hemmings as Will gave an excellent performance as the young country lad volunteering to fight for King and Country in 1914. He did exceptionally well with a range of characters to portray, from the German footballers, his fellow village football team mates, a Sergeant Major and the recruiting officers.
Using basic props of hats and coats he stretched his elastic face into a series of comic contortions like a living cartoon figure. At one moment playing football, then racing to catch a train and at another moment waving to peasant girls in Flanders fields.
Full of energy and with a clear voice he also mimed and used his body to indicate bayoneting soldiers, latrine duty and the precious moment of opening a letter.
Director Toby Hulse created a neat balance between the comedy of youthful exuberance to the misery of the trenches but never lecturing or seeking the phoney pity of so many First World War events being organised this year with their poppies, Royalty, military and political cliques claiming the moral high ground despite their continuing complicity in war.
Song, physical theatre, evocative light and sound that blended into a production that ebbed and flowed with emotion, action and storytelling. This was a joy to watch.
And from the start Hemmings included the audience into the play encouraging them to take part in firing practice, sing along with him, take penalties in the football matches and even share a bag of peppermints.
Private Peaceful worked on the same level of the story of doomed youth – a concept that all older children and teenagers easily connect with – but War Game inspired by Michael Foreman’s novella moved the idea onto another level.
Played out on Susannah Henry’s bandage and wooden pole designed set, with a packed studio audience of which half were in their teens the 60 minute drama never dragged but still kept the poignancy that one expected for a story of war stopping briefly for the innocence of a playground kickabout.
Harry Mottram 5 Stars