Posted on Jul 21, 2014
5 out of 5
There is something particularly poignant about wartime poetry. Once you dig past the high-step flag-wave over-there fix-smiles-and-charge, the poems of the men (and latterly, women) in the trenches has a stark eloquence that one rarely finds elsewhere. When the Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy (nicknamed "Woodbine Willie" for his practice of passing out cigarettes along with his gospel message) took pen to paper, he wrote some amazing works, which are celebrated in the one-man show which bears his moniker.
A single soldier in the trenches (Frank Spackman) speaks to us in verse, taking us through the cycle of the common soldier: the day-to-day problems, the sudden flashes of terror, guilt, hope, and inspiration. He performs his material well, never overstating, letting the words do the work. Staging is minimal, with a bit of pre-recorded sound when needed.
"Woodbine" is a touching piece, the source material ably chosen for maximum effect. When combined with the WWII story "Spitfire Solo" (also appearing at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre), the result is a double bill guaranteed to leave one in a very thoughtful and introspective mood as they return to the modern world and daylight.