An insider’s view of Johnny Jack’s War

Johnny Jack’s War - an insider’s view from actors Chris and Cec Hardy.

Back in the chill of last December an article appeared in the Herald inviting Sidmouth residents to give community theatre a try. The appeal was answered by 40 or so budding thespians who wished to be part of Johnny Jack’s War, a play by Branscombe playwright Peter Wilson, charting the opening months of the First World War and its impact on a rural village.

Director Crosby Chacksfield developed the project involving The Sidmouth Traditional Mummers, with their ‘Gaffer’ and ‘Old Father Christmas’ Henry Piper and his wife Rosie as musical directors, members of the public and members of the Sidmouth Steppers.

He also welcomed the invaluable services retired Sidmouth Folk Festival Director John Dowell to publicise the event.

Some 11 months, four drama workshops, and trips to Bovington Tank Museum and Ypres later, the project came to fruition. The first night of the play on November 9 at Sidbury Village Hall saw several of the cast, who had never been on stage before, joining experienced actors such as Marc Colson who played Johnny Jack.

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Skilled direction and lack of prima donnas produced a performance of which we were very proud and produced excellent feedback from members of the audience.

The highlight of the four performances was Armistice Day when the banner of the Royal British Legion was added to a moving tableau formed by actors representing soldiers over the centuries bringing a tear to many eyes.

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Grateful thanks are due to Keith and Collette Hudson for their hard work and warm up sessions and Gill and Russell Smith for organising the prize draw and generally publicising the event. To everyone else involved we would just say well done and thank you for a fantastic experience.

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