Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Horrors the cast have never known

Killed, July 17, 1916

Hall Green Little Theatre Youth Theatre


IMAGINATION boggles at how this moving story of a young man who volunteered for service in the First World War came to be written. The programme does not credit anybody with authorship – possibly because no fewer than six people were involved, though that is not really much of an excuse for ignoring them. 

Anyway, it was created in 1978, 60 years after the Armistice, by Linda Bassett, Barbara Marten, Philip Whitchurch, Rob Bettinson, Fred Hawksley and Tony Flynn. They deserve commendation – and so do the talented team of youngsters who have brought history to life in this studio production under the direction of Roy Palmer.

Some of the talented youngsters involved in Killed with (left to right, back row) Anna Garret, Jessica Brown; (front) Sami Moghraby, James Kay and Daniel Robert Beaton

It is a challenging task for young people who fortunately have no concept of the horrors that lay in wait for soldiers not much older than themselves who volunteered for service in France – but it is one to which they rise commendably and which must surely have made a profound impression on them. 

There are memorable lines calculated to sear the soul. “Whose bloody war? Not mine. I don't hate Germans.” “Every Bosch you shoot shortens the war by one minute.” “I don't want to die.” There is the account of the sighting of a rat the size of a rabbit. 


There are two beautifully accomplished scenes in which three girls sit side-by-side in a munitions factory. Two of them do the talking – one, Jessica Brown (Elsie), defending her conscientious-objector husband, the other contrasting him with her own man, who is somewhere out at the front. The third, Anna Garret, says nothing, but she has earlier made an impassioned speech at a recruiting drive. Impressively, all three become automatons as they put hands and arms to work to mime the creation of bullets. 

James Kay scores as Billy, the hapless young man who volunteers for service. His is a big role and he carries it off splendidly – as indeed do Grace Bygrave, as his wife, and Daniel Robert Beaton, as Tommy, the friend who goes with him to the trenches. 

Luke Desmond (Private Walsh) touches the heartstrings as he realises how his friendship with Billy is destined to end, and John Bourbonneux is the leather-lunged regimental sergeant major. Sami Moghraby (Captain Howard) is equally adept in dishing out the decibels, although I am not certain that this particular talent is needed when conducting a court martial. 

The production gives a stirring account of life as it explores the personal catastrophes of war, both on the home front and in the trenches. No punches are pulled. It is totally absorbing and it deserves more support than it received on the first night. To 1.5.10.

John Slim

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