Recent leaver from Bolton School, Sam Warburton reviews last week’s performance of Wastelands. The production was performed for parents in the evening and twice the following day for Junior School boys. Questions and discussions explored who the actors were representing, where they might be and what attitudes they related. Discussions circled around letters home and censorship, political dissent and women's changing social position.
On Tuesday 2nd July, pupils from Years 10-12 staged their first performance of Wastelands. This production was the culmination of a year-long collaboration with the school’s Theatre Company in Residence: RoughHouse Theatre. RoughHouse directors Shane Morgan and Moira Hunt worked alongside the boys to devise the piece, which draws inspiration from T S Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land. The show explores the politics of conflict whilst also reflecting on the countless private tragedies suffered by soldiers and their families during the First and Second World Wars.
This was a promenade performance which saw the audience visit five locations around the Boys’ Division whilst singing along to the World War One marching song ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag’. The Memorial Staircase became the site of a conflict between war-mongering propagandists and conscientious objectors whilst the cloisters were used to tell the stories of individual soldiers who one by one recounted their ordeals. The Drama Studio was transformed into the trenches with the eerie calmness of the night and soldiers sharing jokes suddenly giving way to the haunting sounds of mortar fire.
Elements from Eliot’s poetry were well integrated into the performance with reference made to the well-known line: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”, an allusion to the classical Sybil of Cumae which highlighted the widespread feelings of despair following the unprecedented destruction caused by war. The performance ended with the final line of The Waste Land – a call for peace which clearly resonated with the audience.
This was an inspiring performance which I thoroughly enjoyed. Jude Ashcroft was a commanding lead who kept the audience engaged and involved throughout. Jude was supported by a truly talented cast of boys who each gave moving and meaningful performances.