The centenary of the Somme has been commemorated in many ways this year. One such way was We’re Here Because We’re Here, a nationwide ‘living memorial’ devised by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, produced by the National Theatre, for which 1,500 volunteers in replica WW1 uniforms appeared at public places around the UK and silently handed out cards bearing the name, age and regiment of ‘their’ soldier: a specific soldier who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Art can bring memory to life
Anna Lewis, a Jerwood Young Designer, was Lead Costume Supervisor on the project and so was responsible for researching and sourcing each uniform. She also researched each soldier’s name and background, a process that required her to investigate the Somme in great depth and from a very human angle.
Her current project, Life According to Saki, is also set during the Battle of the Somme. Although completely different and far more light-hearted, its research required a similar attention to detail – this time delving into the life and history of Edwardian satirist Hector Hugh Munro (AKA ‘Saki) who died at the Somme, shot by a sniper while calling for one of his men to “put that bloody cigarette out!”
In Anna’s words, “art can bring memory to life” and in doing so has a value distinct from a memorial service. Through theatre, the act of remembrance can be engaging, powerful, and alive. Even in a humorous, slightly absurdist production such as Life According to Saki, the history marches on.
Life According to Saki is on 3-29 August 2016 (except 15 August), 2.15pm, C Venues (C +3)