13 Shows to See for Remembrance Day
This November marks 100 years since the armistice treaty was signed between the Allies and Germany, which acted as the first step in the peace process to end World War I and brought four years of brutal warfare to an end. To commemorate the 100th anniversary, theatres across London have a packed schedule of shows reflecting themes of war and remembrance, with numerous events that honour the servicemen and women who lost their lives in WWI. In observance of Armistice Day on Nov. 11, here’s a roundup of shows that commemorate the event.
“Remembrance” – The Old Vic
The Old Vic and One Voice present a series of monologues written by Ben Bailey Smith, Rachel De-Iahay, Monica Dolan, David Ireland, and Arinzé Kene. Kene (“Girl From the North Country,” “Misty”) has curated these five new monologues, which shine a light on the powerful, poignant and surprising stories often hidden in the shadow of conflict. He explains the powerful impact of presenting theatre in this way: “No props, no costume, no set. All we have are the words and these incredible performers… that exposure is what brings it closer to the audience.” Don’t miss it! The performance is on Sunday, 4 Nov.
“Not About Heroes” – Wilton’s Music Hall
Following a national tour, Stephen MacDonald’s award-winning play “Not About Heroes” dives into the unique friendship that developed between WWI poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Having met at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917, Owen and Sassoon bonded over a mutual hatred of war and love of poetry. This poignant play also coincides with the centenary of Owen’s death (4 Nov. 1918) and plays a limited run at Wilton’s Music Hall this November.
“The Trench” – Southwark Playhouse
Olivier Award-nominated company Les Enfants Terribles bring their signature style of visual storytelling to the stage with their World War I epic, “The Trench.” Inspired by the true story of a miner who became entombed underground in a collapsed tunnel during WWI, this evocative centenary production blends live music, puppetry, and physical performance.
“The Wipers Times” – The Arts Theatre
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s “The Wipers Times” tells the true and extraordinary story of a satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Great War. Following a sell-out West End run and an appearance at the Passchendaele Centenary in Ypres, “The Wipers Times” returns to London this autumn.
In a bombed-out building in Belgium during the First World War, two officers discover a printing press and decide to create a newspaper to lift the spirits of the men on the front line. The newspaper rolled off the press for two years and was an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. The show runs through 1 Dec.
“Billy Bishop Goes to War” – Jermyn Street Theatre
Set in Canada in 1914, Billy Bishop signs up to fight in Europe and is soon in a military training camp. But one day, he spots a single-seater plane circling overhead. Overcoming intense prejudice and astonishing danger, Billy becomes the most successful fighter pilot of his generation. This play with songs explores the complexities of heroism, the cost of war, and Britain’s colonial past. A deceptively simple and totally gripping theatrical experience, “Billy Bishop Goes To War” is playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 24 Nov.
“Brass” – Union Theatre
To commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day this November, the Union Theatre presents the professional premiere of Benjamin Till’s award-winning musical, “Brass.” Based on real stories, real people, and years of history that will never be forgotten, the story follows an amateur brass band from Leeds who enlist together to fight in the war. See this award-winning musical at the Union Theatre until 24 Nov.
“Shakespeare and Remembrance” – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Focusing on serving and veteran military personnel and their families, “Shakespeare and Remembrance” will be an evening of remembrance for all those who served in both World War I and other more recent conflicts. Exploring what war means to society and how we view the military and combat, the performance will also be a testament to the power of art, theatre, and Shakespeare to rehabilitate and enrich lives. See “Shakespeare and Remembrance” at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Sunday 11 Nov.
“War Requim” – Coliseum
Benjamin Britten brings together the anti-war poetry of Wilfred Owen with the timeless ritual of the Latin Requiem Mass. The result is a passionate outcry against man’s inhumanity to man. “War Requiem” is performed by the combined forces of an 80-strong chorus, a children’s choir of 40 from Finchley Children’s Music Group, the full ENO Orchestra, a chamber orchestra, and three soloists. The production runs at the London Colisewum 16 Nov.-7 Dec.
“Forgotten 遗忘” – Arcola Theatre
“Forgotten 遗忘” is inspired by the little-known story of the 140,000 Chinese Labour Corps who left everything and travelled halfway around the world to work for Britain and the Allies behind the front lines during World War I. The play runs at the Arcola Theatre until 17 Nov.
“Soldier On” – The Other Palace
“Soldier On” is inspired by the stories that writer/director Jonathan Lewis workshopped with British servicemen and women and their families over a five year period. Returning to London following a national tour, the play lifts the lid on the vastness and complexity of Britain’s often overlooked and incredibly broad military community, including the wives, partners, mothers, children and, of course, the servicemen and women themselves. The cast also comprises ex-service personnel, as well as professional actors from producer Amanda Faber’s award-winning theatre company, The Soldiers’ Arts Academy c.i.c. This is a community interest company that provides a platform for the arts for serving and veteran members of the armed forces and their families to enable them to recover, retrain, and find work in their chosen profession. “Soldier On” will be at The Other Palace through 24 Nov.
“The Muddy Choir” – National Army Museum
Focusing on three young soldiers serving with the Durham Light Infantry in 1917, this play is about growing up and the humanising power of music. It’s November 1917 and the Battle of Passchendaele is lurching towards its bloody conclusion. Young soldiers Will, Robbie and Jumbo are thrust into a landscape starkly different from the playing fields and estates of their Sunderland home.
Inspired by their childhood oath — “nee killing, anly singing” — Robbie dreams that music will be their ticket away from the front. But attracting the attention of their commanding officers may prove more dangerous than bullets and gas. Don’t miss “The Muddy Choir” at the National Army Museum on 10 Nov.
“Breaking The Silence” – Imperial War Museum
Working alongside youth music organisation RAW MATERIALS, the Imperial War Museum will mark 100 years of remembrance and the final commemorations of the World War I centenary with performances from young musicians and poets in London. Taking inspiration from IWM’s collections and the contemporary sounds of cities, “Breaking the Silence” will be a poignant reminder of the legacy of the first world war and how it still shapes the world we live in today. Visit the Imperial War Museum on 11 Nov. for various performance times throughout the day.
“War Horse” – National Theatre
Eleven years after its National Theatre debut, and after having played in 11 countries to over seven million people, “War Horse” returns to London to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.
At the outbreak of World War I, Albert’s beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. Though not yet old enough to enlist, Albert joins the army, and embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, this powerfully moving and imaginative drama is a show of phenomenal inventiveness. At its heart are astonishing life-sized horses, created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. See “War Horse” at the National Theatre 8 Nov.-5 Jan. 2019.