Scamp Theatre presents Private Peaceful | A Review

*We were provided with press tickets in order to review this show

Steve and I absolutely adore going to the theatre and every time we're lucky enough to catch a show, we always spend the rest of the evening wishing our lives away to a time where babysitters and commitments aren't a problem and we can visit the theatre on a more regular basis. 

I really hope this love of the theatre rubs off on Harry, Heidi and Jack and through blogging we've been lucky to review a few family-friendly performances over the years and going to the theatre really still does feel like a huge treat for us all.

When I heard that Private Peaceful was visiting Tyne Theatre & Opera House this summer, I was drawn to the show for a number of reasons:
  • Private Peaceful is here in Newcastle direct from London's West End. 
  • The production has received multiple 5* reviews.
  • Private Peaceful is aimed at children aged 8+ so it was a chance to dip our toes into a more grown-up style of theatre with the children.
  • The story has been adapted from the award-winning Michael Morpurgo and the original book won Blue Peter book of the year. 
  • The story is based around WW1 which is linked to the National Curriculum and after visiting Puy du Fou in the summer and taking part in a walk-through experience through the trenches, I was keen to expand our knowledge and theatre is the perfect way to do this. 

Basically, Private Peaceful seemed to be a high-quality production, linked to the curriculum which would be perfect for my older children. 

Private Peaceful continues at Tyne Theatre on the following dates:
  • Friday 14th September at 7pm 
  • Saturday 15th September at 2pm
  • Saturday 15th September at 7pm 
Tickets are available for Friday's performance for just £10 which is an offer not to be missed.  Check out the details below:

It is recommended that this show is suitable for children are aged 8+ and I'd say this is fair advice. I certainly wouldn't take any children under the age of 7 or those who are particularly sensitive to watch this show. Jack is almost 8 but is mature for his age (when he wants to be) so I made the decision to take him along with us. We reviewed the show as 2 adults, a 12-year-old, 9-year-old and almost 8-year-old.

Private Peaceful at Tyne Theatre & Opera House - A Review

Private Peaceful tells the story of 16-year-old Private Tommo Peaceful, a young soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. The play shares Tommo's final day as he remembers life in rural Devon, his childhood adventures and the battles and injustices of war. Obviously, the themes are quite grown-up and the show was completely different to anything we have watched as a family before.

The first surprise was that the performance was very stripped back. The entire show is performed by one very talented actor with a minimal set and music. This works really well and allows the storytelling takes centre stage. The audience is whisked away to a school playground, transported to the trenches and we could almost feel the rain dropping on our heads as we listened to Tommo reminiscing about his time sharing letters with the love of his life back home.

The show is quite wordy at times and children do need to concentrate - I asked Jack what he thought and he said he loved it but it was a show where he needed to use his brain a lot to imagine what was going on. It's not an easy watch for younger children but they will be able to follow along. The storytelling was second to none and the whole audience was hanging on Private Peaceful's every word. Despite there being a couple of larger school groups in the audience, you really could have heard a pin drop and the air was constantly filled with anticipation.

Characters were brought to life in split seconds before our eyes and it was really quite something to see an Army Colonel switch to a pair of brothers sharing their last moment in a field to a school teacher and then a pregnant wife. Each character was as believable as the last and it really felt like we were watching 'proper' theatre. 

There are a few giggles in the performance (look out for the old lady) but it's a mostly sombre play. Heidi was shocked at the ending and I don't think she's ever watched anything with a sad finale but I think it's important it ended that way as it really brought closure to the performance and helped us all to begin to understand some of the realities of war.

Private Peaceful is a story of childhood and growing up, it's a story of human spirit & family and a performance which brings many of the horrors of war to life. It's poignant and powerful and moved many of the audience to tears. At the end of the show there was one of the biggest standing ovations I've witnessed in a theatre in a long time and it's clear the whole audience was touched by the story.

I would not recommend Private Peaceful to families with younger or sensitive children but for tweens, teens and grown-ups, it really is a wonderful show and I'd urge you to see it while you can. It has already prompted lots of conversation about WW1 and war in general amongst our children and I honestly believe taking the next generation to see productions like this, will hopefully prevent tragedies like WW1 from ever happening again in the future. 

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