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Killed - July 17th 1916 at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

Killed tells the story of Billy Dean, a First World War soldier shot for cowardice on July 17th 1916. Originally performed in the eighties, this has been picked up by the Looking Glass Theatre in commemoration of the centenary of the beginning of the war.

Director James Smith has assembled his own quality group of recruits for this production. Particularly Jaz Cox as Billy Dean, who plays him with the sufficient emotion to leave the audience thinking. And thinking is the important part of this play because it gives you no answers. Was Billy a coward or not? Did what happen at the crucial moment amount to cowardice or simply confusion?

For me, I have no answer except for the fact that the shooting of cowards was wrong in any case. A terrible part of history with a tremendous lack of understanding. Some people simply do not have what it takes to go to war and kill people. That does not make them cowards.

However back to the production. Sasha Farmer and Jennifer Styles-Barker are both excellent in their roles, providing the emotional impact of those left behind. David Heathcote as the RSM is also without fault, the perfect collection of shouty (very shouty) army officer and latterly, just that small edge of emotional weakness in his later conversations with Billy Dean. Tim Cole in his multiple roles, provided what little humour could be garnered from such a tough play, and his separate characters where sufficiently different never to be confused.

The set, in the gloriously compact and personal space of the Looking Glass was both very simple, but very effective. Subtle music, simple lighting, and a collection of multi-use boxes and boards. Non invasive and just allowing the actors to do their thing.

Killed is a compelling and historically important play, and it was superb to see so many young people in attendance on my viewing night. This is, as James Smith said in his introduction with his hopes of school touring productions, a play that should be seen through the eyes of the children of today. If that isn't too poet.

These people of the war have now all left us, but that should never mean we should forget them. Also more importantly, we should never forget the crimes that we perpetrated upon some of them.


Killed - July 17th 1916 is on at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton until Saturday 31st May, 2014
Details can be found at: http://www.lookingglasstheatre.co.uk/

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