Adapting Pat Barker’s celebrated trilogy of First World War novels into a two-hour stage play was always going to result in a wordy drama, and also proves a worthy task.
It roams over the same story as Stephen Macdonald’s equally-acclaimed stage play Not About Heroes, the wartime meeting of minds between poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfrid Owen, but in more forensic detail. By introducing a purely fictional element into their story – a fellow officer struck mute by his experience of the battlefields – it also adds a dramatic counterpoint to the two highly-articulate characters.
Simon Godwin directs it all with a care not to over-do the battlefront flashbacks too much, but then chooses to overplay a scene involving electro-convulsive therapy more for the horrifying effect on its hapless patient than on the watching Dr Rivers.
There are uniformly sturdy portrayals of the central characters throughout, led by Stephen Boxer as the doctor; Tim Delap, a suitably patrician Sassoon; Garmon Rhys a puppyishly-excited Owen; and Jack Monaghan as the dour Bradford lad brought out of his silence to reveal an earthy eloquence.
Blackpool Grand is again fortunate to be included on a circuit which has taken in several major cities, and along with its recently-announced £1m refurbishment plans is clearly determined to further reinforce its standing.