In our latest Blog post, Dr Helen Brooks talks all things Theatre and WW1.
Dr Helen Brooks is Co-Investigator to Gateways to the First World War, an AHRC Funded WW1 Engagement Centre.
Helen is Principal Investigator of the Great War Theatre project and Co-Investigator of the Performing Centenaries project. She is a senior lecturer in Drama at the University of Kent, where she also teaches on the First World War Studies MA course in the School of History.
A number of sessions at the recent Connected Communities Festival in Cardiff reflected on the nature of community at this time of commemoration and during the First World War.
This session, ‘Performing the First World War’ explored how drama and performance can shed light on lives and legacies of the First World War.
The session focussed on creating new drama from local material and how lost plays can reveal historical experiences. Brenda Winter-Palmer (Queen’s University, Belfast) led an activity around her experience of developing a community play, The Medal in the Drawer. Dr Andrew Maunder (University of Hertfordshire) then considered how ‘lost’ plays of the First World War can explore the war, memory, and identity and give an alternative perspective on the more familiar performances of the war.
The Living Legacies 1914-1918 World War One Engagement Centre launched this week in Belfast. One of five UK-wide centres funded by the AHRC to connect academic and public histories of the First World War, the centre is a collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast, University of Ulster and National Museums Northern Ireland.
At the launch event both Vice Chancellors warmly welcomed the initiative and the collaboration, as did the NMNI’s Director Tim Cooke, with Professor Richard Grayson of Goldsmiths, University of London, giving a lecture in which he drew on his own family history to explore aspects of the history of the First World War as it impacted on Ireland.
But it was the excerpt of the play ‘The Medal in the Drawer’ by Brenda Winter-Palmer that took centre stage at the University of Ulster venue on Monday evening. Performed by second-year Creative Arts students at Queen’s University, the play charts the war-journeys of four volunteers who join up to fight with the 36th Ulster Division and the Connaught Rangers. Tensions on the streets of Belfast are never far from the minds of the protagonists as they prepare for war, questioning each other and themselves about their motivations for joining the war effort. At the end of the excerpt we saw, the spirit of death arrives to touch each of them…