Review: Stratford takes on Christmas Truce - and honours its men

The Christmas Truce. Image from RSC Topher McGrilli
The Christmas Truce. Image from RSC Topher McGrilli

The Christmas Truce, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford. Until January 31

There could not be a more poignant time to bring events of the famous wartime Christmas truce to the stage.

As we mark 100 years since the outbreak of war and a popular supermarket beams the story into millions of homes, the RSC is staging a somewhat different offering.

The family-friendly tale places audiences right alongside the eager Royal Warwickshires as they head to France and bed in for Christmas.

As writer, Phil Porter leads us from a county sports day straight into No-man’s land, there is no loss of humanity as we see men one by one ‘bowled out’ by enemy fire.

Centred around local hero of the hour, Stratford cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather the show tells tale of soldiers and nurses along the front line and gets to the heart of the struggles faced at every level.

The play’s second half is much more powerful as we get to the truce, its characters and see how events played out before being defeated by the military chain of command.

Despite the seriousness of the subject, there is a lightheartedness to the play with plenty of jokes and good cheer among the soldiers -and a Leamington Courier thrown in to get some laughs.

Even the harrowing and gritty realism of the horrors of trench warfare are handed to us in a series of word play and aside character pieces.

Though there is still plenty to show a darker side to the story - and it would hardly be a family Christmas production filled with blood and gore.

The heartwarming story is easy to follow with a great balance of historical and entertainment interest. Well worth a watch this Christmas.

Rating 8/10

By Hannah Smith