Double bill of WWI dramas

Alfie Marsden-Smedley as 'Billy' and Claudia Wace as 'May
Alfie Marsden-Smedley as 'Billy' and Claudia Wace as 'May

As the nation commemorates the centenary of the start of the Great War, a school drama department is performing a double bill of two contrasting plays exploring the folly and futility of the killing fields of France 100 years ago.

Many of the words spoken in Killed: July 17th 1916 have been taken from verbating records.

Between 1914 and 1918, the British Army identified 800,000 men as suffering from ‘shell shock’ or what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

In total, 306 British soldiers, some as young as 15 years old, were shot for cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The play centres on Manchester teenager Billy Dean, who becomes lost in the mayhem on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and ends up being court martialled for cowardice.

As he sits writing his last letter to his young wife May, he recalls the events that have brought him to the eve of his death by firing squad.

Meanwhile, May is hard at work back in a Manchester munitions factory, packing bullets and doing her bit for the war effort.

The play will be performed by a cast of 16 sixth form drama students, directed by head of drama, Nick Bayley.

The quirky Panic On The Battlefield, by Spanish playwright Arabel, is set in the midst of a war zone. A solitary soldier who is quite literally scared to death, shares a picnic with his parents, when they are disturbed by two stretcher bearers, searching for wounded soldiers.

The play is performed by six sixth form students under drama teacher Lucy Brassell.

Performances are at 8pm from Thursday to Saturday, November 27 to 29, in Stowe School’s Roxburgh Theatre.

Tickets for all performances are free and the school welcomes as many people as possible to attend.