Daily Archives: August 16, 2007


Forgotten Voices
3 stars ***
Assembly @ George Street (Venue 3)

AFTER THE HORROR OF war and violence, the act of bearing witness takes on a huge importance.  In Truth In Translation, at the Assembly Hall, we see the new South Africa struggling to recognise and heal the brutality of the apartheid years through the work of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  At the Assembly Rooms Music Hall, meanwhile, the mood is much more muted, much more traditionally British.  But the process is recognisably the same, in Malcolm McKay’s gentle but finally hard-hitting play Forgotten Voices, based on oral testimonies of the First World War collected by the sound archive of the Imperial War Museum.

The play is set in 1957, when a group a war veterans – plus one civilian from the home front, Kitty Proctor – gather at the museum to give their testimony.  In the waiting room, they re-tell their tales to one another; and both the script and the production – directed by McKay himself –  make a slightly awkward job of transforming testimony into conversation, reflected in a certain stiffness in the acting.

In the end, though, the strength of the material, and the sense of deep cwounds still unhealed 50 years on, goes a long way towards making this a worthwhile piece of theatre.  Matthew Kelly turns in a strong performance as the bluff working-class former private whose memories of the war are tinged with a deep bitterness against the officer class, with Timothy Woodward in equally impressive form as a gruff ex-sergeant; and Rupert Frazer  is touchingly vulnerable as a retired officer from a lost world of privilege blown apart by the war which finally did not end all wars, but nonetheless changed everything.

Joyce McMillan
Until 27 August