In 2014, Death at Dawn won two major awards and was shortlisted for two more. Two years later, it is back, directed by Neil Armstrong, to mark the centenary of William Hunter’s execution at 6.58am on February 21, 1916.
The execution of North Shields lad William bookends this powerful production from Cloud Nine Theatre Company, which follows William from Shields to the trenches.
Peter Mortimer’s play doesn’t pull any punches, and with such minimal stage sets, the focus is entirely on the performers. This is definitely a positive thing.
The actors conjure up the hell of the trenches with two ladders, a couple of crates and evocative sound effects, backed up with dialogue which perfectly captures the bravado, fear and trauma the young men experience.
Stephen Gregory portrays Hunter, combining a soldier’s bravery and the emotion of a young man suddenly in love, and Dylan Mortimer, Jamie Brown and Dean Logan are terrific as soldiers forced into the barbaric and horrifying experience of shooting a fellow soldier and friend.
The women don’t go unrepresented, with Heather Carroll taking on four very different roles in William’s life.
World War I is not a period I’ve read about in detail, but certain tales do enthral me, and this was definitely one of them, with plenty of laughter amongst the heart-break.
Death at Dawn opened on February 19 at Wallsend Memorial Hall and moves to the Discovery Museum on February 26. Tickets are available on 0191 259 2743, or online at www.cloudninetheatre.co.uk