Paul T Davies reviews A War Of Two Halves now playing at the Tynecastle Football Stadium as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2019.
There is a misplaced assumption that sport and theatre don’t mix, often said by people who don’t appreciate the drama of sport! Staged at the home of Heart of Midlothian football club, this play commemorates and celebrates the Bravest Team, 13 players who volunteered to fight during the first World War. It’s a tribute to the writing that not once did the play feel overwhelmed by the location, in fact, it enhanced it, and the company skillfully moves the audience around the stadium, led by The Angel, ( Hannah Howie, ethereal, her voice and violin echoing around the ground.) We are taken from the playing fields to the battle fields in one of the best site-specific shows I’ve ever seen.
Our guide and narrator is Alfred Briggs, a warm, welcoming, human and excellent performance by Bryan Lowe at my performance, introducing us to the players and football life. The cast is flawless, Scott Kyle excellent as Annan Ness, the man given the role of father figure to the boys, Paul Beeson, (who also wrote the play with fellow actor Tim Barrow), a commanding Sir George McCrae, and every cast member brings to life the man they represent, Michael Wallace, Charlie Wake, Mark Runnoch, Fraser Brown, Euan Bennett, all excellent.
There are so many moments in this play that are theatrical genius. In particular, at the heart of the play, I loved when they changed from football kit to uniform and took us to the trenches, it’s beautifully staged, director Bruce Strachan has done an outstanding job. We all know how this ends, and the final scene takes place in the memorial garden, where each actor pays tribute to their real-life counterpart. This is so moving, so respectful, and every single audience member was affected.
What made me excited as well is that they are getting an audience that may not normally see a play, Hearts fans were in, the disabled access is excellent, and there was a young boy with his parents who was enthralled by the stadium and the play. It is a tremendous tribute to those men. This experience is not to be missed, I will never forget it. Forever in our Hearts.