both individually and together, their voices come loud and clear in what is a musical in all but name
Last year’s The 306: Dawn was set within the trenches which split France from north to south, and performed in a Perthshire barn to which the audience were taken by coach (with an initial through-the-night performance timed to end at dawn). The 306: Day—once again a co-production with Perth Theatre and Stellar Quines Theatre Company, with the support of contemporary musicians from Scotland’s Red Note Ensemble—is set in and around Glasgow, while performed “in the round” within one of the function rooms in Perth’s historic Station Hotel. Which, alas, doesn’t always help with sight-lines.
“We will be heard,” the nigh-on all-female cast sing, as Emanuel tells the bigger story of the Home Front and the War through both the emotional and practical consequences of three executed soldiers’ deaths for their families. Not that it’s necessary to have seen the first play; the focus here is firmly on the women: Gertrude Farr, the widow who loses her war pension because of “the manner in which (her) husband died”; Nellie Murray, the sister inspired to campaign for peace; and her mother Mrs Byers, whose denial of her son’s death seems part of her dementia.
Amanda Wilkin brings a desperate nobility to Gertrude, countered by the all-too-shrill Nellie Murray (Dani Heron), who moves from one munitions factory to the next in the hope of stirring up opposition to the War. Alas, by 1917, she finds that many ordinary people’s determination to win is so deeply ingrained as to deflect argument; she ends up briefly in prison like her husband, a conscientious objector forced to make coffins for the Army. In a joke hopefully at the expense of our war-loving media, then and now, he’s editing a prison newspaper written on toilet paper.
Steven Miller is the sole male among the cast, playing without exaggeration an assortment of characters from strong upright soldier to shell-shocked survivor. Quite rightly, however, The 306: Day belongs to its cast of five women (the others being Angela Hardie, Fletcher Mathers and Wendy Somerville); both individually and together, their voices come loud and clear in what is a musical in all but name, while their characters’ stories certainly linger in the memory.