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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Performance Review: A Soldier's Sketchbook

Tuesday June 3, 6pm - Exeter Central Library
Created by Shiona Morton and Bill Wroath
Performed by Ben Simpson

Frank Applewhite is a young boy growing up in rural England in 1914. When he witnesses the arrest of the Glaswegian artist he admires so much, a chain of events is set in motion that will change the young lad's life for good. It's a brilliant set up for a vignette that deals with art, war, and growing up.

This one man show is an exceptional achievement in storytelling. Shiona Morton's script beautifully captures the voice of an artistic young boy who is struggling to find his place in the world. Her words are matched by talented performer Ben Simpson who excels at bringing the piece to life. His ability to conjure the voices of those Frank meets at the front demonstrates a particular talent for accents and he beguiles with his youthful naivety. He moves naturally in the space, utilising mime in the sparsely furnished set as the story moves from England to France.

Visuals designed by installation artist Bill Wroath are projected at key moments during the play, though unfortunately the venue did not allow for these to be seen to full effect. There is a simple soundtrack of piano music, crashing waves and bombs which work to compliment the story without becoming distracting. These elements come together to create a show which is vivid, amusing and full of heart. My only real criticism is that it was over all too soon.

This review was first published in Wildfire, the daily critical review for Exeter Ignite Theatre Festival 2014.

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