“Private Peaceful” Written by Michael Morpurgo is a a resonant piece. Morpurgo has also written some other great pieces as well, “War Horse” being one of them. ‘Peaceful” is just as deep and meaningful as “War Horse”. The play is about a soldier, private Tommy Peaceful (Shane O’Regan”). It is his last night on earth, he will be shot in the morning for cowardice. Although he is anything but, and I will get to this later, he counts down the hours with the audience and his past as he spends his last time on earth in his cell. It is 10:30 pm, he talks passionately about his brother and hero, Charlie, who is three years older then him. He relives his childhood from Charlie carrying him on his shoulders to Sunday School with teacher Mrs. Mc Callister. He talks about how his father died chopping down a tree on the Colonels property. tommy would later blame himself for that death. He was present when the tree fell, his dad told Tommy to run and his dad didn’t run himself.
10:40 and Tommy has no appetite to eat. He talks about after his father died how the family only ate potatoes. He and Charlie would fish and the family ate well after that. He spoke about Molly who he met at Sunday School, how he loved her even though they were young. How Charlie, Molly and Tommy did everything together. His first view of an airplane and the river, the fun that the three had together and that he wished it never ended. Tommy loved the innocence of it all. 10:50, Tommy talks about God. He did not ever understand how God let his Son suffer like that, the earieness of Jesus on the Cross every Sunday when he attended Mass. No God; no Heaven? He asked this. Tommy’s own dad believed you come back and he talked about how his dad wanted to come back as a bird, his dad thought as a bird he would be free. Tommy started to notice how Charlie and Molly, closer in age, started to have feelings for one another. This bothered Tommy, he would do anything for the two, but he deeply loved her. Tommy then goes on to talk about how the Colonel fired Charlie because he spent more time giving Molly” the time” then working.Molly who lived with her mom and dad as well as with the Colonel was prohibited from ever seeing the Peacefuls. Tommy was now a messenger of letters between Charlie and Molly. The war is beginning, Molly gets thrown out of the house because of the obvious, she is pregnant with Charlies baby. Times were changing for the better according to Tommy, the brothers were both haymakers and were making money and supporting there mother. Tommy moves in with Big Joe, who we really never get to know during the play. Charlie is now married to Molly, so Tommy has to room with Joe. Both Tommy and Charlie enlist for the war.
2:15 and the brothers are on the train to basic training. Boot camp is brutal and Tommy has trouble keeping up. Tommy is at least two years younger then all the other recruits and it is Charlie who has to defend him and as a result he is punished. He always takes Tommy’s side to protect him, whether it was on the play ground or the battle field.
3pm Tommy tells the story how he received his watch. He talks about time and wishing he could stop it. At this point, O’Regan is in full uniform. He addresses the audience ready for battle and war it is. Both Anshuman Bhatia with the lighting and Jason Barnes sound design brings us right into the battle. Michael Morpurgo brings us into the familiar “Out of the Ashes”; we feel Tommy’s fears, his willingness to live. Tommy tells us of the endless rain, the lice, the rats, the two days of constant fighting. O’Regan explains this in such detail that we fell firmly entrenched in the action. He knows he is brave and that he will survive. Even though Charlie is the leader of the platoon, Tommy feels brave. We see the bombs again, the Mustard Gas, both Tommy and Charlie being hit. We grieve over Tommy caring his dead brother and telling the Sergeant that waiting for darkness would be better then going forward right now.
5:35 Tommy talks about his end. He is bitter about his court martial, how one hour was all they needed to decide a humans life. He disagrees, not screaming about it, but doing it politely, because that was Tommy’s style. He was an innocent young sixteen year old who only wanted love from his family and Molly. He wanted his countryside and to live peacefully.
Simon Reade did a fantastic job directing this one act play. O’Regan, in constant movement made this eighty minutes fly by. We were engrossed in this boy’s life, we felt for this young man, we wanted to defend him, we loved Charlie for doing this for us.
O’Reagan, up for multiple awards back in the UK, as is Morpurgo, delivers the goods in a big way, His accents of other people, his movements, his explosiveness is not to be missed.