Pack up Your Troubles
by Snoo Wilson and Nicolas Bloomfield
Directed by Peter Mountford for
National Theatre Connections
★★★★ The Guardian
It would be a hard heart that didn't warm to the National's annual festival of youth work - quite simply because it is one of the least cynical, most entertaining and joyous theatre events of the year. It's a great opportunity to see first-class new writing. With each of the selected youth groups, schools and colleges giving their own unique take on their chosen plays written specially for the event, the evenings always have a natural in-built quirkiness, even if they don't always include - as last Friday's performance did - a play from the wonderfully idiosyncratic Snoo Wilson, whose wild, extravagant plays are sadly out of fashion.
Wilson's musical - written with composer Nicolas Bloomfield - is a sideways look at the life and death of Felix Powell, the man who wrote the famous marching song Pack Up Your Troubles. Powell served in the trenches in the first world war; his life fell apart after the war and he eventually committed suicide in 1942, at the height of the second world war, wearing his home guard uniform. Leyton Sixth Form College's production responded wholeheartedly to both the bizarre and the poignant, with a nod to Moulin Rouge and performance art.
In an evening that neatly demonstrated the way war infects our everyday lives in ways we're not always aware of, Wilson's play was cleverly twinned with Sharman Macdonald's Broken Hallelujah, an account of an encounter between confederate and union soldiers and two teenage girls in a Virginia backwater. Macdonald's dialogue sings with simple, unaffected truth and Truro School's simple, moving production got straight to the heart of a play about ordinary people doing their best to survive the catastrophic and get on with their lives.
Karim El Ghanoui, Yasin El Ghanoui - Pack Up Your Troubles
Chris Charles, Lee Long, Janine Archambie, Charles Ajenise, Nathan Dawes-Smith - Pack Up Your Troubles
Chris Charles, Charles Ajenise - Pack Up Your Troubles
Karim El Ghanoui, Yasin El Ghanoui, Gemma Sears, Rebekah Bogle - Pack Up Your Troubles