Morning is Red begins as an analysis of the human psyche when affected by the terrors of life on the Front Line, depicted though the the exchange of stories between three characters serving in World War I. It is, in fact, more significant than this – it is a plea for change, from those whose lives are forever transformed by conflict.
A commemorative and thought provoking production
Loaded with the bitter truths of a nation at war, Morning is Red is further developed through the collaborative writing of Nigel Fairs and Gerald Sexton and the unexpectedly insightful characters they have created – each with the familiar hardiness and grit of service personnel from almost any WWI history book or film. One such character is Leonard, a young man injured on the first day of the war and frustrated by the hindrance of his patriotic and bold intentions, played equally as boldly by Dan Burgess. Opposite him is Richard Stemp as the empathetic and at times infantilised Officer Andrew, injured at the end of the war, and played with great conviction. Fairs touchingly explores the changing zeitgeist between the initial and subsequent war years here. To my surprise, with the expectation from what I had previously read of the piece suggesting it was a two-hander, there is a third player in this story: Nurse Constance. Constance, portrayed by Suzanne Procter with great maternal care and undeniable strength, allows the piece scope to visit the often untouched theme of female experience on the Front Line. Her character adds depth to the continually revealing plot which sees the trio truthfully dealing with their circumstances, their fragility, and inner conflicts.
Site-specific theatre can sometimes be a daunting prospect, especially when you find yourself downstairs in the basement of the Old Police Cells. However, it soon became evident that the intimacy of this small venue largely contributed to the immersive and engaging storytelling and gave the piece a genuinely eerie atmosphere. Nor did the minimalistic set do any disservice to the piece as, with credit to director Louise Jameson, the unseen and imagined was made just as real to the audience as it lived in the minds of those performing.
As the themes gradually build and entwine in their complexity, moving at a steady pace, the devastating twist is unveiled, uniting these souls in their suffering. Thereby, Morning Is Red brings to our consciousness the most fundamental and universal issue – the cyclic nature of politics and the failure to learn from such infamous historical affairs – as Fairs offers this story in response to current humanitarian crises.
The Last Post is powerfully used by Jameson to summarise a profoundly poignant ending, commanding the attention of a Remembrance Day tribute to the victims and veterans of atrocities past, present and, sadly, future. Theatre 368 have crafted a commemorative and thought provoking production, through their original take on a classic story. I would hope to see the audience grow in numbers to appreciate the hard work and preparation clearly invested in the piece.