Birdsong - Photo credit Jack Ladenburg

A vivid new stage production of Sebastian Faulks’s best-selling epic BIRDSONG appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 20th May to Saturday 25th May on its first UK tour. Set against the backdrop of the Western Front, Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation of Faulks’s mesmerising story of love, courage and sacrifice features a twelve-strong company led by Sarah Jayne Dunn (Hollyoaks, Drop Dead Gorgeous), Arthur Bostrom (’Allo, ’Allo), Charlie G Hawkins (EastEnders), Tim Treloar (RSC) and introducing Jonathan Smith.

 

In pre-war France, a young Englishman, Stephen Wraysford, embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with his host’s wife, Isabelle Azaire, which turns their existence upside down.  As the war breaks out over the idyll of his former life, Stephen finds he must lead his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme and through the sprawling tunnels that lie deep underground.  Faced with unprecedented horror, the war-hardened Stephen clings to the memory of Isabelle as his world explodes around him.

 

Award-winning actress Sarah Jayne Dunn plays the role of Isabelle Azaire. The longest-standing female character in Hollyoaks, appearing as Mandy Richardson in more than 250 episodes until 2006, her television and film work also includes Doctors, Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Innocence Project, The Dark Knight and The Syndicate. Her stage work includes Boeing-Boeing with Susie Blake and The Vagina Monologues with Sally Lindsay and Lisa Riley, both productions toured to the Theatre Royal Bath in 2009; and the role of Sally in When Harry Met Sally with Rupert Hill.  Jonathan Smith, plays the role of Stephen Wraysford, his previous stage work includes the 24 Hour Plays at London’s Old Vic Theatre and For Once at Hampstead Theatre and on UK tour.

 

Playing the roles of Adams, Berard and Barclay is Arthur Bostrom, well-known on television for his role as Officer Crabtree in more than 70 episodes of BBC1’s comedy series ’Allo, ’Allo; which also played 5 seasons on stage in the West End and toured the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Arthur’s extensive stage credits range from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice to Sheridan’s The Rivals and The Merry Widow for the Carl Rosa Opera Company, a production which played the Theatre Royal Bath in 2004.

 

Charlie G Hawkins, well-known on television for his long-running role as Darren Miller in EastEnders for 8 years, appears as Tipper and Lamm. Charlie’s film and television credits also include Shanghai Knights and Foyle’s WarTim Treloar, who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, plays the role of Jack Firebrace in Birdsong. His stage work also includes roles at the National Theatre, Chichester and in the West End. On television Tim has appeared in many popular series including Silent Witness, Doctors, Midsomer Murders, Casualty, The Bill, A Touch of Frost and Foyle’s War. Tim Van Eyken, whose theatre credits include War Horse at the National Theatre, plays the roles of Evans and Levi.  The cast is competed by Joshua Higgott, Polly Hughes, Malcolm James, Liam McCormick, Poppy Roe and Emily Stride.

 

Sebastian Faulks’s 1993 novel Birdsong is one of Britain’s best-loved books. It has sold more than two million copies in the United Kingdom and more than three million worldwide and still regularly appears in the best-seller lists. The story was also recently adapted for television by Abi Morgan as a two-part BBC1 drama in January 2012.  In addition to Birdsong, Faulks is best-known for his historical novels set in France, The Girl at the Lion d’Or and Charlotte Gray.  His many works also include A Week in December; Engleby; a James Bond sequel, Devil May Care; and his latest novel in 2012 A Possible Life.  Sebastian Faulks was appointed CBE in 2002 for services to literature. He has been invited to sit on the advisory board for a historic commemoration ceremony of the centenary of the start of World War I which will be held on Remembrance Day in 2014.

 

Birdsong was originally adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff opening at London’s Comedy Theatre in 2010. Following on from the West End staging, this newly cast production marks the very first touring production of the play. Rachel’s other work includes The Soldier, about World War I poet Rupert Brooke, and an adaptation of Faulks’s The Girl at the Lion d’Or for BBC Radio 4.

 

Rachel Wagstaff, who adapted Birdsong for the stage, comments:

 

“Birdsong is an incredibly powerful novel, and through the story of Faulks’s fictional characters, we can understand what it might have been like for individuals caught up in this most extraordinary period of world history.  Given the approaching centenary and the passing away of Harry Patch, the last surviving British Army Veteran to have fought in the Great War, it seems more important than ever that the courage and sacrifices of those who fought and fell for future generations are not only remembered, but understood.  Lest we forget; lest we let suffering on such a scale ever happen again.”

 

BIRDSONG appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 20th May to Saturday 25th May.  Tickets are available at the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk