Birdsong: None’s Fair in Love and War

Madeleine Knight & Tom Kay, Photo by  Jack Ladenburg

Madeleine Knight & Tom Kay, Photo by Jack Ladenburg

Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation of Sebastian Falks’ classic tale of tumultuous First World War romance bleeds fragility, from Victoria Spearing’s beautifully crafted landfall set to the unfaltering generosity of Tim Treloar’s Jack Firebrace.

Bombs don’t knock first

Tom Kay and Madeleine Knight play doomed lovers Stephen Wraysford and Isabelle Azaire, full of yearning and unavoidably alluring in their picturesque shackles. Temporary safety is found in each other’s arms, a home is made in the wreckage. Whispers of PTSD come swirling early, our romantic hero haunted by the failings of men at war. Oppressive, striking sound (Dominic Bilkey) and lighting (Alex Wardle) design brings the visceral disruption of the time as close as a millennial audience may come to it.

Tom’s domestic flashbacks are his retreat, while others use moments of quiet to thank God for keeping them at war. Waltzed through a string of intimate memories, we are asked what might fill our silence. What have we brought home from war? What holds us in place?

Faulks’s poetic prose ties the ribbon on this piece about the beautiful and the awkward under strain. Humanity sings in the unexpected pockets of time that the distraction of war makes possible.

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