Written by Paul Beeson & Tim Barrow
Directed by Bruce Strachan
Musical Direction by Matthew Brown
Runs at Tynecaslte Stadium from August 11th – 26th, Various Times
Marking the centenary of the 1918 Armistice, drawing
influence from the 1914 Hearts Team (The Bravest Team), A War of Two
Halves is promenade theatre from writers Paul Beeson & Tim Barrow. Taking
us through the journey these players would make, from locker-room to trenches
of the Somme. If at any point you took at glance at this production, do not
wait a moment longer to book a ticket. You will never regret it.
In the confines of the Hearts home locker room, you’ll find
yourself transporting back through time, breathing in the sweat, glory and
hardships of the team. The directness in Beeson & Barrow production is not
a glorification of war. It is a tribute, a reminder of these valiant men who
would surrender their chance at a League title, their careers and regrettably their
You’ll find an itchy finger searching for a phone to take
pictures at first, and, how couldn’t you? The production allows a venture
through the unseen belly of Tynecastle. As the gravity weighs down, this will
stop. The performances are so strikingly mortal that all technology, chatter
and outside influences cease. It’s a remarkable testament to power on display
There are three types of people who aren’t meant to show
their emotions or distresses: Men, Footballers and Soldiers. These lads were
all three. After all this time, all this suffering, Alfie Briggs can re-live
the events, and hopefully, find some sense of closure.
Alternating performances with Paul Beeson, Bryan Lowe performs
the role of Briggs this evening. Encouraging us to follow there are no worries
entrusting everything with our narrator. Lowe elevates this production into
realms of immense story-telling talent. The entire space around him shifts back
a century at a word.
The manner of introducing a full cast of McCrae’s battalion
can lead to unbalance in depiction. Every performer though treats his or her
role with respect. No doubt a combination of stellar acting with Strachan’s
direction, this is a conclusive manner in which to introduce a cast,
enthralling us, wrapping ourselves into each of them.
Michael Wallace, Charlie Wake, Mark Rannoch, Scott Kyle, Paul Beeson, Tim Barrow and Fraser Bryson do not portray characters. They are those men. The comradery, aggression, fear and levity are wholly human. In particular, the dedication of Kyle and Rannoch, to such complex roles is commendable.
At multiple occasions, a visceral lump will take up
residence in your throat. Don’t be afraid to let it out, you can sense that the
audience is waiting for someone to cry, so they can follow suit. We are in good
company, as Hannah Howie guide us to our destination. Underscoring the event
chiefly through violin, Matthew Brown’s musical direction is as harrowing as it
Strachan concentrates on drawing humanity. They are heroes
of Scottish football, heroes of war, but they’re mortal. Tynecastle isn’t being
utilised for the image alone, Strachan knows precisely why each segment takes
place where it does. From the howls of match-time frustrations on the new main
stand to the heart-breaking moment as the team, donning their maroon and khaki,
frog march down the long corridors. As they fade away, the weight of this
production sinks harder than you can imagine.
During the Fringe, people won’t look past the city centre. What they’re missing is a wealth of earthy, red-blooded theatre without a trace of superficial motive. The thought that has gone into this piece of theatre, beyond performance and venue, deserves every ounce of respect we can muster. A War of Two Halves is a stunning piece of writing, with a sentimental heart of reverence.
Tickets available from: www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/war-of-two-halves
Photography by Tony McGeever