There are some productions that stay with you and remind you why you love acting. On Saturday 4th February 2012, the Radio 4 production of Michael Morpurgo’s, ‘Private Peaceful’ will air as the Saturday Play of the Day, and for me, it is one of those productions.
Image from the 'Private Peaceful' Podcast (available after broadcast). Click on it to go to the podcast.
Once upon a time I worked as a bookseller, and one day I decided I wanted to arrange a large event with Michael Morpurgo, to promote his latest book. Clearly I had gone mad. It meant co-ordinating 450 children from 9 schools to gather in the Bristol Old Vic for the event. Somehow I managed to bring it all together and I still remember watching the auditorium fall silent as the children became completely absorbed in the author’s words.
At some point during the day talk turned my acting and wouldn’t it be funny if I ended up in an adaptation of his work...so imagine my surprise when a few years later I got the phone call to say I’d got the role of Molly in the Radio 4 production of one of his most popular books - my jaw dropped and, let’s face it, I did a little dance.
I always hoped I would be in a production of his work, but 'Private Peaceful' was the last Morpurgo adaptation I ever thought I would find myself in! Why? Because I had watched the original stage adaptation with Paul Chequer as Tommo, and assumed that if they ever did a radio version they would keep it as a one-man production. I also assumed it would be recorded in a studio, but we recorded it on location in Iddesleigh and it wasn’t until we were on location that I understood why this was so important for the production.
Iddesleigh is a rural village and we had the luck to be there on one of the most gloriously sunny days last Spring to capture, in the recording, all the sounds of nature that course through the village - and nature is definitely a character in its own right.
Here we are, squinting in the sun! (Left to Right) Simone Reade, Christopher Bianchi, Amy Reade, Michael Morpurgo, Annette Chown, Paul Chequer, Alison Reid, Mark Quartley. This image is from the Radio 4 website listing and you can find more behind-the-scenes pictures of the production on the site. Click on the image to visit the full listing and find out more.
I’ll admit I was nervous as the others had already been working together and I was only with the team for one day of recording, but Susan Roberts, the producer, immediately put me at ease, and everyone was lovely and welcoming. The production also brought me back together with some familiar faces, including Chris Bianchi, Simon Reade, mini me, (well, mini-Molly) Amy Reade and of course, Michael Morpurgo!
Image from the BBC Radio 4 website listing for 'Private Peaceful'. Click on it to view the listing.
The play takes place in this idyllic Iddesleigh and the trenches of the First World War through the memories and inner thoughts of Tommo Peaceful, with the music of Coope Boyes and Simpson to transport you to the era. It’s very moving, so you might want to grab a box of tissues before you switch the radio on!
I’ve already listened to it and Susan Roberts has crafted a beautiful production which I am proud to be part of, and the only way I can describe it is ‘magical’, because it really felt like there was something in the air that day which has made its way into the final piece.