This would have to be one of the most enlightening, thought-provoking, emotionally challenging and draining performances I have ever seen.
PRIVATE PEACEFUL follows the final night of a young soldier during the 1st World War before his execution, (not dissimilar to the final night of Jesus), where he has been accused of fabricated crimes to scare the rest of the soldiers into compliance. Ben Francis is truly superb in this role. He captures the innocence and naivety of a small-town farm boy to perfection. Boys grew up very quickly during the war out of necessity and we see this clearly in his portrayal through reminiscences of his life prior to this fateful night. From a young lad after the passing of his father, his first day of school, his first crush and subsequent dashed hopes to his enlistment into the War Machine that was the British Army. There are moments alternating between tears and giggles, with the final scene eliciting nothing but outright raw emotion.
The directing by Rob Croser, as always gets to the nitty-gritty of the insanity and sheer stupidity of what actually happened during this period in time. One can only hope that clearer minds would prevail if circumstances were to repeat (praying of course that we would never see the likes again). The choice of sound effects was very much part of the show and enabled the audience to feel like they were really there. The lighting also was used to outstanding effect with the final scene very reminiscent of Never The Sinner previously directed by Rob.
The program should perhaps be classified as a historical record of the time with the effort that has gone into it to research the material and the sadly long list of names of real people who suffered this fate.
Thankfully I was warned before entering the theatre to ensure I had tissues. This story will resonate with anyone who has family who previously or are currently serving in the Defence Forces. If you did not catch it last time, or even if you did, I urge you to get your ticket, support Adelaide Theatre and see this amazing young man as he takes you on his sadly short life-story.