On March 9, I set off with some trepidation and a fair amount of excitement to the USA where I have only ever spent 5 days in all my 60 years – (and those five days were in New York) – travelling there now in order to present the compelling and inspiring stories of Britain’s First World War conscientious objectors – ‘THIS EVIL THING’ – to a number of sympathetic religious institutions, colleges and a few Quaker Meeting Houses too.
This all came about thanks to a chance meeting with an American, who saw the piece when I first presented it in Edinburgh in 2016 – and who said to me, ‘You should bring this to the States.’ To which I replied, ‘I’d love to. But how?’ ‘Let me have a think,’ he said.
A request was received by Hull Truck Theatre for a complimentary ticket for my play from a Mr. Don Sutherland, a Quaker who had been a conscientious objector in WW2.
He had been involved in setting up agricultural peace communities in Lincolnshire…
could he also sell copies of his memoir about those experiences, and could he join me for the post show discussion? The answer from me was yes yes and yes! Oh – and could I ask how old Don is? Ninety seven.
Those were the words on one of the feedback slips I received after the first performance of THIS EVIL THING at the Sherman Studio on Monday. A great show, a packed house, with members of the Welsh Assembly in (!), my director Ros Hutt in too (she is half-Welsh and was determined to be there and bring many a local friend), and Aled Eirug, expert on Welsh conscientious objectors in WW1, joining me for the Q and A – but there was also this small child.
Armistice Day, and I find myself in a large room in the building of Theatre Clwyd, north Wales, waiting to perform a trimmed down 60-minute version of my WW1 COs play THIS EVIL THING, as part of the theatre’s series of lunchtime ‘Picnic Plays’ – organised by William James, associate producer there, who has been good enough to read earlier incarnations of my play, and who describes himself as an ’atheist pacifist.’
There is a regular avid core of thirty or forty folk who turn up to these readings, where they can buy a picnic bag on top of their ticket, or just bring their own lunch if they wish. So it seems I’m going to be performing some quite serious material while people munch on their sarnies. Continue reading