Private Henry Tandey VC follows the story of its heroic namesake. Except it doesn’t.
The play hops back and forth in time from 1914 to ‘40 to ‘58 and back again with little to no explanation.
The plot of the ‘Folk Opera’ consisted of short monologues, full to the brim with facts about the world wars but offered no real storyline, apart from the fact that the protagonist hadn’t killed Hitler when he had a chance. The excessive reiteration of the facts made my friend and I feel as though we were in a history lesson rather than a theatre production.
The monologues came from actors Ben Bracken (in the title role) and John Rowlinson (Brigadier Sir John Smyth). Although somewhat convincing, Bracken’s performance tended to be very one-dimensional, and it was rare for a scene to be complete without either actors stumbling on a line – even with the production’s tour being three-quarters complete.
Separating scenes were songs written by Mike Grogan, the show’s writer and director.
Grogan performed alongside Robert Martin, a talented violinist whose musical prowess did the show a favour.
Twelve songs were played altogether and each was a good as the next. All detailing the crux of the monologues, but made interesting and enjoyable by Grogan’s songwriting abilities. At one point, the lyrics to the song I Can’t Wait To Get Back To The Front! were displayed from a projector and the audience were encouraged to sing along (which we did).
Unfortunately, without the programme, which details a lot of the story, the show wouldn’t have made much sense and was only really endurable thanks to the music – which I would quite happily pay to listen to again. The show as a whole? Perhaps not.