REVIEW: Birdsong, Comedy Theatre London starring Ben Barnes 12th October 2010
When choosing what plays or musicals to see on this trip certain criteria came into play, “What have I not seen?” and “Who would I like to see?” As a much loved book frequently voted into “favourites” lists, Birdsong would certainly come high on any list just to see what could be done to transfer this massive and heart wrenching story to the stage. However, if I’m being honest the real reason was to see Ben Barnes.
Curiosity to see what “Prince Caspian” is like in “real life” and to see if there was any substance to the rather attractive exterior.
Thankfully he didn’t disappoint in any department. He is as stunning in real life as he looks on screen (I was literally inches away) and he can actually act. The trench scenes especially were poignant and thought provoking. It shows that war in any age never really changes and that we need to remember that it’s fellow human beings who are fighting them on our behalf – not abstract names or statistics.
The supporting cast were equally strong, in particular veteran Nicholas Farrell and Lee Ross (below) as Jack Firebrace who really moved in the heart-breaking trench scene. Genevieve O’Reilly (above right) although convincing as the aloof, married woman, I find cold and detached in everything she does and it was no different here.
One of the more amusing aspects of the evening was the girl beside us who you could tell was having difficulty containing herself everytime Mr Barnes passed by the front of the stage. Only due to the urging of her mortified friend did she manage to restrain herself from actually touching him. I was secretly hoping she would go for it to see what would happen.
It’s not, and no stage adaptation could ever be, the epic novel, but it was adept in its portrayal of the stultifying bourgeois society of turn of the century Amiens, and the terrifying claustrophobia of the trenches and the tunnels was convincingly and movingly done.