REVIEW: The Accrington Pals, Westovian Theatre, South Shields

WARTIME DRAMA ... The Westovian Theatre Society is performing Accrington Pals. Paul Dunn as Company Sergeant Major Rivers, on guard with Jack Young as Tom.
WARTIME DRAMA ... The Westovian Theatre Society is performing Accrington Pals. Paul Dunn as Company Sergeant Major Rivers, on guard with Jack Young as Tom.
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THE Second World War was an easy sell – to combat the barbarism of fascism.

But how does the ruling class justify the loss of a generation when 1914 to 1918 reflected declining British imperialism and a rising German capitalist class clashing over the right to exploit Africa’s mineral wealth and her people?

The vestiges of which we see today; the offensively patronising song Do They Know It’s Christmas, anyone?

Peter Whelan’s 1981 play doesn’t fathom the causes of ‘the war to end all wars’, instead it is more about community and the women left behind when their menfolk volunteer for the Western Front.

Whelan does, however, allude to how working class youth signed up to die for ‘King and Country’ in the knowledge they had God on their side.

The incompetent General Kitchener devised the ‘Pals’ units believing battalions of friends fighting side-by-side would make for an even better fighting machine.

It ultimately meant whole towns lost the flower of their male youth.

The 700-strong Accrington Pals battalion (East Lancashire Regiment) took fatalities of 585 within 20 minutes of the Somme. Only 100 or so returned.

We follow the men – played by Jack Young, James Barton, David Hopper and Paul Dunn, who sign up and lose their lives on the battlefield.

We witness the heartbreaking devastation it causes back home with their loved ones, played by Rachel Swann, Hannah Potter, Danielle Miller, Erin Mullen and Nicole Dunn, and youngster Corey Muizelaar.

Paul Dunn’s direction is very good and the young cast portrays the sense of hopelessness and loss well. Indeed, these actors were the age of those slaughtered in the name of capitalist profit.

A country in decline run by the Eton and Oxbridge elite, wars for (oil) profit that lead to the death of working class kids, what’s actually changed in 100 years?

It runs until Saturday. To book tickets, go to the Westovian Theatre Society’s website.