Moving events mark Great War milestone

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Perthshire continues to remember the war to end all wars with a series of events that bring the 1914-18 conflict into sharp focus.

Three captivating productions, each with a First World War theme, are taking place at Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre to mark 100 years since the end of hostilities.

And at Perth’s Black Watch Castle & Museum – where the events of the Great War have such a powerful resonance – a centenary programme of exhibitions is drawing to a close.

For those fortunate enough to have seen the first two parts of Perth Theatre’s acclaimed First World War masterpiece, The 306 Trilogy, a thrilling prospect awaits.

From Wednesday 10th until Saturday 27th October, the eagerly-anticipated conclusion, The 306: Dusk – produced in association with the National Theatre of Scotland – will be premiered at Perth Theatre.

Equally compelling is an immensely powerful sound installation, Charlie Ward – which runs from Monday 15th until Friday 19th October – and places audiences in the heart of a makeshift wartime hospital.

And, on 11 November, a stellar cast of singers and musicians will commemorate Armistice Day through song, music and poetry in No Man’s Land, a one-off concert in Perth Concert Hall.

Mike Griffiths, interim chief executive of Horsecross Arts, the creative body behind the Concert Hall and Theatre, is anticipating a special few days: “These contemporary events – across the art forms and involving performers from Scotland and beyond – will allow our audiences to get a flavour of life at that time through music and stories."

Meanwhile, at the home of the Black Watch – a regiment that lost 8,000 men in the Great War – the focus is unwavering; the iconic There But Not There silhouette installation serving as a poignant reminder of the conflict.

At the home of the Black Watch – a regiment that lost 8,000 men in the Great War – the focus is unwavering; the iconic There But Not There silhouette installation serving as a poignant reminder of the conflict.

The simple, spectral display at the regiment’s Balhousie Castle HQ is part of a national initiative to educate all generations about the ultimate sacrifice made during the First World War.

The Balhousie display features a 6ft outdoor Tommy sculpture with 13 metal silhouettes placed throughout the venue to create a remembrance trail for visitors.

Other events at Balhousie as the 100th anniversary Armistice approaches include lectures, a poppy-making workshop for all ages and, for one day only, the creation of a replica trench that lets visitors to learn about the day-to-day life of a soldier living on the front line.

Audiences taking in the two productions at Perth Theatre can expect to experience something of the same intensity on stage.

The 306: Dusk is the concluding part of Oliver Emanuel and Gareth William’s powerful trilogy, which follows the true story of the 306 men executed for cowardice and desertion during the conflict and the devastating consequences for those they left behind.

The first part, The 306: Dawn – first performed in 2016 – centred on events at the Battle of the Somme and followed the story of three of the condemned soldiers.

The second part, The 306: Day – premiered in 2017, charted the struggles of women and families left behind on the home front, and their fight to be heard over the clamour of conflict.

The 306: Dusk brings the trilogy into the modern day, exploring the depth of feeling around the First World War a century on from its conclusion.

The play is set on Armistice Day, 2018: a teacher on a history trip to France gets lost while searching for a grave; an injured veteran of the Iraq war relives the nightmare of his own battles; and a blindfolded soldier wakes up after 100 years to hear birds singing once more.

Set in the Delville Woods, one of the First World War’s bloodiest battlefields, the crossed paths of these three disparate characters explore the modern day parallels of conflict and trauma, and how the effects of the Great War still echo.

GALLERY

There are similar emphases in Charlie Ward, which is inspired by the real life story of medical staff screening a Charlie Chaplin film on a hospital ward’s ceiling to boost the morale of the first casualties of war.

But, for one soldier, the flickering images, whirring projector and Chaplin’s perfect comic timing trigger complex emotions and memories.

Small audiences are invited to relive the Charlie Ward experience from the same point of view in this moving 15-minute show.

And, lastly, No Man’s Land concert on Armistice Day brings together an array of arresting performers, including Blue Rose Code, Raghu Dixit, Kris Drever, Eska, Karine Polwart and Declan O'Rourke.

Through a careful blend of new material, songs and poems, No Man's Land will illuminate the Great War from a range of viewpoints. The cast of singers will explore perspectives from different sides of the conflict and its aftermath from combatants and civilians alike.

It’s that endless fascination with the war, and its aftermath, that’s drawn large number of visitors to the home of the Black Watch this autumn, many discovering the story of Scotland’s oldest Highland regiment for the first time.

That story, so intricately bound to the region’s sense of identity – and immortalised in Gregory Burke’s superb 2006 play Black Watch – is one that evokes a gamut of strong emotions, particularly among those with familial ties to the regiment.

That story, so intricately bound to the region’s sense of identity – and immortalised in Gregory Burke’s superb 2006 play Black Watch – is one that evokes a gamut of strong emotions, particularly among those with familial ties to the regiment. 

Who, for instance, wouldn’t smile at the nickname, Ladies from Hell – Die Damen aus der Hölle – bestowed by German troops on account of the regiment’s kilts and fighting qualities.

And which of us wouldn’t wonder at the accounts of battle honours and untold bravery that emerged from during the conflict.

Some 25 battalions of the Black Watch fought over the course of the First World War, mainly in Flanders and France; except for two, which served in Mesopotamia – present-day Iraq – Palestine and the Balkans.

Their ranks were drawn almost exclusively from Perth & Kinross, Fife and Angus; the casualties – in the world’s first industrial war – almost unimaginable.

As the 100th anniversary of the Armistice draws nearer, those feelings of quiet pride, reverence and awe, still felt by so many, will only intensify.

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For tickets and information on The 306: Dusk, Charlie Ward and No Man’s Land, call Horsecross Arts Box Office on 01738 621031 visit www.horsecross.co.uk.

To find out more about Balhousie Castle, go to https://www.theblackwatch.co.uk/

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