Reviewed @ St. Bride’s Centre, Edinburgh on Wed 14 Jan 2015 @ 19:00; also @ Tynecastle High School, Edinburgh on Fri 16 Jan @ 19:00
Weaving poignant local vignettes into the horrific wider global context of the First World War, When The War Came Home, directed by Liz Hare, is a timely and moving depiction of the havoc wreaked by the Great War on the ordinary people of Edinburgh.
It’s an ambitious and tricky production for small local company Citadel Arts Group to undertake, as action skips from families at home to soldiers abroad and back again in breathless fashion. One minute we’re in the office of (fictional) Evening News editor Iain Sutherland, the next in the Sarajevo where Gavrilo Princip is pledging an oath to South Slav nationalism before assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Another blink of an eye takes us to the Morningside parlour of a middle-aged couple whose son has just signed up for the Territorials. The cast of four are to be applauded just for the speed of costume changes and array of different voices paraded.
In truth, it’s perhaps too busy at times, and the on-stage screen is fully employed (not always accurately) keeping the audience up-to-date with when and where we are. It’s a necessary byproduct of a team of seven playwrights all contributing their own takes on this grand sweep of history.
While we lose a single linear storyline, we gain an impressionistic vision of life in wartime. Even those with a thorough knowledge of the War will marvel at the research that has been conducted and may even learn a thing or two. There’s detail about the 1916 Zeppelin raid on Edinburgh, the conscription rally by Sir George McRae in the Usher Hall, the pressure put on Hearts fans and players to sign up, all rendered with loving attention to period costume and props.
What is more, all of this is set along national issues to help make the general personal. Most emotionally, we observe MPs debating in the Commons about the age of conscription, then see the effects of shell-shock on an under-age soldier, who only weeks before was an energetic newspaper-seller on George IV Bridge.
The play’s chief appeal may be documentary rather than dramatic, but it’s none the worse for that, and it’s an impressive piece of work that fully justifies the contributions made by the community involved.
The Wee Review review of Citadel Arts Group’s previous show – Leith At War