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'Private Peaceful', written by Michael Morpurgo

Private Peaceful, written by Michael Morpurgo.

Private Peaceful comes to the White Rock

Private Peaceful, written by award-winning author of War Horse and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo, tells the story of a young soldier in World War I, who awaits the firing squad at dawn. Coming to the White Rock Theatre this Friday, HOT’s Zelly Restorick asked Andy Daniel, who plays the role of Private Tommo Peaceful, some questions about his experience as sole performer on the stage. 

Andy Daniel as Private Peaceful Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Andy Daniel as Private Peaceful (photo: Jonathan Keenan).

I understand that Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write Private Peaceful after a visit to Ypres, where he was mortified to discover how many young soldiers were court-martialled and shot for cowardice during World War I. Please tell us something about Private Peaceful.

Private Peaceful is the story of Tommo, a young First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night, he looks back at his short but joyful past, and recounts all the moments and events that have lead up to this moment.

You’re alone on the stage for the whole performance. How does that feel?

I enjoy it, to be honest. A lot of the play is direct address to the audience and I love having that connection with them. Particularly with children, they seem to really engage with the play when you talk directly to them. It can obviously be difficult in a long run of a play (I have been doing Private Peaceful since February) when you don’t have anyone on stage to bounce off. It is down to you to drive the play every day and that can be tiring, but I just remember how much I love the play, the story and the character, and that normally helps. Most actors would love this opportunity!

Andy Daniel in title role of 'Private.Peaceful'. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Andy Daniel in title role of Private Peaceful (photo: Jonathan Keenan).

Has this role changed your understanding, thoughts and feelings about war?

Yes, to an extent. I have previously been in Journey’s End, (which is another WW1 play) and so I was aware of a lot of the circumstances of the war already. It was a war that was about ordinary people having to do the most extraordinary things. I think Private Peaceful has made me even more aware of this. Particularly as Tommo (the main character) is so young. He really shouldn’t be there at 15 years old. When I first started working on the play, I thought about myself at 15 and how I would have reacted to facing thousands of enemy soldiers, gas attacks and a firing squad. It hit me hard. That is the biggest change in my feelings: the thought that some of these soldiers were just kids and had no idea really why they were there fighting.

Andy Daniel in title role of 'Private.Peaceful'. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Andy Daniel in the title role of Private Peaceful (photo: Jonathan Keenan).

How is your character, Private Tommo Peaceful, evolving for you with every performance?

Well, the best thing about playing Tommo is that he is such an optimist. He brings out the best side of me and he is a joy to share the stage with, as it were. I am really going to miss him when the run finishes. I would say that as I have become more comfortable with the play, I have allowed his mischievous side to come out more often. I like that he brings out my cheeky side and I think the audience respond well to these moments. They become his friend, which makes the ending have even more impact. The key thing with the play is that, even though it is heartbreaking, it can’t be doom and gloom for 90 minutes. The play is about Tommo deciding to not give in to his awful situation, but to remember and relive everything that has happened, good or bad, in his life and to keep hold of who he is through it all. It’s a pretty courageous thing to do. That is what makes Tommo a hero in my eyes.

Andy Daniel in title role of 'Private Peaceful'. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Andy Daniel in title role of 'Private Peaceful'. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Has playing this solitary role affected you in your own life?

Well, touring in a one-man show isn’t great for your social life! But seriously, it has had an impact on me in a positive way. I feel more confident in myself as an actor. Being up there every day dealing with different audiences and venues has given me a greater idea of who I am as actor, which is really important. I have relaxed a lot more, as sometimes there are things you can’t control and you just have to go with it rather than fight against it.

A good example is when I started to lose my voice one show. Previously, this would have really worried me, I would have tensed up and probably made my voice worse. Whereas I just said to myself, “Tommo is exhausted, it’s ok if his voice sounds hoarse. Just go with it.” I relaxed, got through the show and we got some of our best audience feedback from that performance. It made me realise that all I can control is my reaction to something. I think that is really important for an actor. Know what you can control and focus on that.

When are you at The White Rock Theatre?

I’ll be at the White Rock Theatre this Friday, 26 September, at 7.30pm. I’m looking forward to it!

Private Peaceful

Presented by Scamp Theatre and Fiery Angel
Written by Michael Morpurgo
Adapted and directed by Simon Reade
White Rock Theatre on Hastings seafront
26 September at 7.30pm (performance running time: 2 hours inc interval)

Read about the recent dedication of a new bench in Alexandra Park Peace Garden commemorating WW1 and recommending peace here.

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Posted 12:45 Wednesday, Sep 24, 2014 In: Performance

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