The Mouth – Bournemouth – Poole – Christchurch

Shot at dawn | Review

By Lisa Moro

1959444_718344181547546_8527638539237411248_nThe latest John Foster play – Shot at Dawn at Bournemouth Town Hall’s Council Chamber.

The location, transformed for the audience into an ad hoc venue for a WWI desertion trial in France, with its sweeping amphitheatre seating and grand wooden panelling lent itself well for this purpose.

The packed house had gathered to hear the stories of two Dorset men. One an officer, and the other an ordinary soldier, both accused of desertion and both suffering shell shock. The stories played out through flashbacks to the trenches, letters home and witness statements, then back to the stark reality of the trial where one man would make the decision for them to live or die – desertion was punishable by death.

Throughout, the actors captivated the audience, taking them with them on their emotional and personal journeys. Mark Freestone played  the role of an officer, treated for shell shock then declared well, but still clearly suffering. Adam Jessop portrayed a young soldier who is utterly overwhelmed having seen a friend blown apart amid the terror of the constant shelling, and Russell Biles played the severe courts martial officer deciding their fate.

The actors also played several supporting roles, making slight adjustments to their clothes then appearing as entirely different characters along the way.

The play was incredibly moving and at points distressing, more so having read John Fosters explanation:

“Their stories are the combined experiences of a number of different combatants, embodied by the two soldiers on trial. So while not sustaining total documentary accuracy, everything in the play happened and nothing has been made up or invented.”

The play culminated with a powerful and moving performance by Jessop, which saw him reprise his tragic story, blending extracts from his letters to his mother with angry tirades towards the court.

What made the performance all the more remarkable was the venue – a civic centre full of pomp and grandeur in which life-changing decisions are made.

I thoroughly recommend going to see the play  and give it 5 stars!





Shot at Dawn is part of the Bournemouth Arts By the Sea Festival


Leave a Reply

Photo Gallery

Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes