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Review

Dear Chocolate Soldier by Kate Glover

OSO Arts Centre

OSO Arts Centre - 09 November 2018

Dear Chocolate Soldier  by Kate Glover

Age Shall Not Weary Them

 

Dear Chocolate Soldier

 

by Kate Glover

 

Historia Theatre Company at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 10th November

 

Review by Andrew Lawston

 

Coming to the OSO less than a week before the UK commemorates the centenary of the 1918 Armistice, Dear Chocolate Soldier is a particularly timely production.  Billed as a “docudrama”, the show dramatises the years of correspondence that resulted from young Joan Burbridge posting a bar of chocolate to the soldiers on the front line, bearing her father’s inscription of “Little Joan”.  In the trenches, Bombardier Edwin Hassall finds the discarded chocolate wrapper bearing Joan’s address, and so writes to Little Joan, talking about his life and experiences in the trenches with wit and plenty of historically fascinating detail.

 

Through this touching story, which lends a welcome human perspective to the international conflict of the First World War, Kate Glover’s script narrates the second half of the War; from the Somme, through Passchendaele, and even some time after the Armistice.  Hassall’s letters, performed ably by Simon Brandon in authentic World War One khaki, are interspersed with songs from the period, as well as poems, and short dramatic scenes extrapolated from the correspondence.

 

As the war grinds on, an increasingly cynical and weary Hassall returns to the front line as a sergeant, and “Little Joan” becomes both his personal mascot, and the name of his field gun.  Director Kenneth Michaels plays numerous roles throughout the production, and increasingly supplements Hassall’s letters with quotes and narration from Field Marshall Haig, Lloyd George, and from General Ludendorff on the German side. 

 

Completing the trio of actors is Kate Glover, who has enormous fun playing Little Joan in the opening scenes, before playing various characters throughout (most notably Hassall’s sister, Emma).  Glover is also the show’s writer and her script keeps the proceedings varied, breaking up the letters with songs from the period, most of which will be familiar to contemporary audiences.  All three actors reveal that they are also strong singers, with Simon Brandon’s voice ringing out particularly strongly, allowing Hassall’s authentic voice to resonate with audiences a century on.   

 

Read Andrew Lawston’s full review at www.markaspen.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/dear-chocolate-soldier

 

Photography courtesy of Historia Theatre Company


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