When The War Came Home

It’s not often that I’m asked back to see a show, let alone because those involved have openly taken on some of the points I made in my review!

I’m pleased to report that this totally revised version (which comes in at just under an hour – or less than the original production’s first half!) is now a narratively sharp, emotionally impactful drama which touches hearts and minds through its simple, yet effective use of music, song and reportage.

When the War Came Home is a joint project by Edinburgh’s Citadel Arts Group and the WEA Playwrights Workshop, looking at how the realities of the First World War eventually “came home” to the people of Edinburgh and Leith – through the deaths of fathers and sons, the return of physically and psychologically-wounded soldiers, and the bombs dropped on the city from a singular German Zeppelin.

In its original performances, director Liz Hare and her cast of four actors – playing a multitude of roles between them – did their best to contain the overly panoramic sweep produced by the show’s seven writers, but my principle criticisms of When the War Came Home were its overall length (at nearly two and a half hours) and lack of dramatic focus. Too many of the scenes seemed to be there because they’d been written for the project, rather than because they were actually dramatically needed.

I’m pleased to report that this totally revised version (which comes in at just under an hour – or less than the original production’s first half!) is now a narratively sharp, emotionally impactful drama which touches hearts and minds through its simple, yet effective use of music, song and reportage.

There are still, necessarily, fewer actors than characters, but the latter are more contained, making it easier to remember and care about those which remain. The cast, also, appear more comfortable and relaxed; the revised script even offers a clear emotional continuity between the different women excellently portrayed by Andrea McKenzie. Rob Flett and Mark Kydd, meantime, remain the strong pillars of this small ensemble, embodying both the bravado and fear of men going to war. And Euan Bennet still impresses with his vocal and physical versatility, whether as none-too-bright newspaper seller Norrie or war poet Wilfred Owen.

Regularly punctuated with period songs which are used to cutting effect, the show definitely now benefits from the one scene which – hand held up – I particularly disliked first time round. I have to admit that John Lamb’s re-telling of the Zeppelin raid on Leith and Edinburgh – a scene I dismissed as a cack-handed attempt at politically-informed kitchen sink realism – now works perfectly as the dramatic core of the piece – the night, indeed, when “the War Came Home to us all”.

It’s not often that I’m asked to give a show a second chance; it’s even rarer to see my concerns addressed and acted upon so diligently and effectively. The result is that the show’s obvious potential has been fantastically realised; I couldn’t be more pleased, and just hope that this won’t be its final run!

You can read Paul's original review here: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/when-the-war-cam...

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

This moving play gives voice to the part played by Edinburgh people: caught up in a Zeppelin raid; working in munitions fighting on the Front. Historical figures include Sir George McCrae, who led the Hearts players into battle, and Wilfred Owen teaching at Tynecastle High. Written by Jim Brown, Elaine Campbell, John Lamb, Brian Lincoln, Carolyn Lincoln, Alan Montford and Graham Townend.