Perth Theatre is collaborating with the National Theatre of Scotland, 14-18 NOW and Red Note ensemble for the world premiere of new WW1 drama The 306: Dawn in May/June 2016.
Written by Oliver Emanuel and composed by Gareth Williams directed by Laurie Sansom with costume and set designed by Becky Minto lighting design by Simon Wilkinson, musical direction by Jonathan Gill, The 306: Dawn will take place in Dalcrue Farm barn in the Perthshire countryside from 24 May to 11 June 2016.
The 306: Dawn is a new piece of music theatre directed by National Theatre of Scotland’s Artistic Director, Laurie Sansom, written by Oliver Emanuel and composed by Gareth Williams.
Based on real events, it charts the heart-breaking journey of three of the 306 British soldiers who were executed for cowardice, desertion and mutiny during World War I (1914-18). The work is a co-commission with 14-18 NOW, the UK’s First World War centenary cultural programme.
The 306; Dawn is Part I of a trilogy of new plays, with live music, commemorating the First World War, to be presented in 2016, 2017 and 2018. These plays will explore personal stories of the 306, as well as looking at how the war affected women, families and communities on the home front. The first part of the trilogy is set in France, around time of the Battle of the Somme and will mark the 100th anniversary of this Battle.
Joseph Byers (17) from Glasgow. Too young to enlist, Joe, like so many at the time, has lied about his age to join the other men at the Front. However, his dreams of being a solider are quickly destroyed by the brutal realities of trench warfare and he soon finds himself in trouble with the authorities.
Private Harry Farr (25) from London. Traumatised by the things he has seen and lived through as a serving soldier, Harry is suffering from shell-shock and is now unable to fight. He has subsequently been convicted of cowardice and, as he waits to hear his fate, he dreams of his wife and hopes for a last minute reprieve.
Lance-Sergeant Joseph Willie Stones (24) from Durham. Having used his rifle to block the entrance to a trench during fierce fighting, Joseph stands accused of casting away his arms in combat - an offence punishable by death. He thought he was protecting his men, but the top brass want to make an example of him to maintain discipline in the ranks.
With a contemporary score performed live by the Red Note Ensemble, the songs explore the vulnerability and devastation of the battlefields, alongside the inner struggles of the men. Composer Gareth Williams is a long-term collaborator with both Red Note and Oliver Emanuel; the pair previously worked on The End of the World (for One Night Only) which Red Note commissioned, developed and staged in Edinburgh in December 2012.
Poignant and powerful, The 306: Dawn will be performed in a transformed barn in the Perthshire countryside, exploring the lives of these unknown soldiers - who appear on no war memorials, to give them back their voices, stories and names.
The 306: Dawn will open with a special dawn performance.
The 306 is written by the celebrated Scottish-based writer Oliver Emanuel whose work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes Dragon (winner, Best Production for Families, UK Theatre Awards 2014) and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name. The music for The 306 is composed by Gareth Williams, whose work has featured in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, St. Magnus Festival, Sound Festival, 5:15, Tête à Tête Opera Festival, Sonorities, Opera to Go, and the York Late Music Festival. Laurie Sansom directs, whose award-wining The James Plays trilogy also tours throughout the UK in 2016.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, says: “This is a fantastic project highlighting one of the less acknowledged aspects of the First World War, and I’m pleased the very best of our creative talent will be helping to illuminate Scotland’s commemorations. The 306: Dawn is just one of many projects taking place across the country to encourage the people of Scotland to reflect on the significant impact the First World War had on our nation and its lasting effects on life today.”
Oliver Emanuel, writer of The 306:Dawn says :“In 2012, Gareth Williams and I were looking at all the planned memorials for the First World War. It felt like all the stories were about bravery and sacrifice and heroism. And whilst these were powerful testimonies, it seemed as if there was something missing. What about those who failed to live up to this ideal? When we found out about the 306 men shot for cowardice, desertion and mutiny – and the story of their families and the hundred year campaign for their pardon – it was an instant connection. This story challenges what we think about the war and how we memorialise the dead”
Gwilym Gibbons, chief executive of Horsecross Arts, the creative organisation behind Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre says: “We are delighted to partner the National Theatre of Scotland for this, the first in what will surely become a series of iconic plays. While Perth Theatre undergoes restoration and redevelopment we are committed to taking theatre out and about to different venues across the community. The 306 fits perfectly with this approach, taking place as it does in a barn in the heart of the Perthshire countryside. The setting will serve to illustrate and enhance this poignant story and we look forward to welcoming audiences from across Scotland to witness what will truly be a unique piece of theatre.”
For tickets and info for The 306: Dawn click here or call Horsecross Arts Box Office on 01738 621031.