Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful Adelaide 2018Promise Adelaide. Bakehouse Theatre. 7 Apr 2018

Ben Francis. His is a name to remember. Not only did this eighteen year-old Scotch graduate render an outstanding performance in this one-hander, one-act play, but he also produced it. Not only that, his production company, Promise Adelaide, has raised a significant amount of dough for charity and has provided a creative outlet for over a hundred young people. But wait, there's more! He is the lead vocalist of The 60 Four, and an acquaintance of mine was amazed at his crystalline falsetto applied to the personage of Frankie Valli. He's been in a Gale Edwards's musical. I think the sky is the limit for this talented hard worker with a heart in the right place.

Private Peaceful began life as a novel by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse, no less) in 2004, and was adapted for stage by Simon Reade (Pride & Prejudice, Midnight's Children) in 2008. It's a British project concerning poor Peaceful in a WWI bunker in France during a single long night. Something not good is going to happen in the morning. Poor Peaceful reflects on his short sixteen year-long life via a sequence of scenes where Francis narrates and performs Peaceful's recollections. He takes us from primary school right through to the terror of the trenches.

Francis in his youth is already a consummate actor and under director Rob Croser, the cream rises to the top. Francis performed Peaceful's bucolic innocence to perfection. There is a plethora of other characters to flesh out and these were done distinctively. He made the terror of the artillery bombing so palpable that you want to reach out and give him a reassuring hug. Director Croser had him blasting across the stage, and Croser's and David Roach's set is Spartan and evocative. Sounds of sustained explosions and machine gun fire are nerve-wracking.

I was exhausted and sad after the show. Private Peaceful represents the 306 soldiers executed by the British high command during the war (Australia did not execute deserters). This project sprung from Ben's invitation - from winning an essay-writing contest - to attend the centennial services at Gallipoli. I have been there myself and it is a profoundly moving experience like this play. Double bravo!

David Grybowski

When: 4 to 14 April

Where: Bakehouse Theatre


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