Forgotten Voices

archive review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 22 August 2010

Adapted from military historian Max Arthur’s Forgotten Voices of the Great War, Forgotten Voices examines the experiences of five soldiers during the First World War. Arthur’s book is based on material from the audio archives of the Imperial War Museum, and the play takes as its setting the day on which these survivors are brought together to have their testimonies recorded.

A great deal of time may have passed, but as the play goes on it becomes obvious that these characters—two privates, a sargeant, a captain and a female munitions worker—have never truly gotten over the horrendous experiences of those dark days. Anne-Marie Comber and Alan Jeffreys both deserve a mention for the haunting sadness of their performances.

The framing device is persuasively employed, but only up to a point; ultimately, what we are witnessing here is not one conversation, but five individually recorded statements and however discreetly they have been blended, there are many moments of disjointedness.

With no attempt made at dramatising this production beyond the historical narrative of the war, this feels like a long and static 90 minutes, but Forgotten Voices is a sensitive exploration of a moment in history that is in danger of falling increasingly out of reach.