Malcolm Stent & Don Maclean's Brummegem Pals
This new play, with music, written by comedians Malcolm Stent and Don Maclean is the story of best mates Jackie Moore and Danny Arrowsmith, seventeen years of age and intent on abandoning their apprenticeship in favour of adventure. Jackie and Danny enlist and serve together all through World War 1, from recruitment and training, through the Battle of the Somme, Italy and back to France. It’s the moving story of two ordinary boys, their lives and loves and their families caught up in the horrors of the war to end all wars. So how did two comics from Birmingham come to write a serious play set in the vicious terror of WW1? Malcolm takes up the story. “My best pal told me of his grandfather who enlisted in a Birmingham Pals Battalion, went off to fight in France and never came home, having died in the Battle of the Somme. We went to find his grave and with help from the Imperial War Graves Commission we found it in a cemetery near Beaumont Hamel, in Picardy. Later, we drove to Albert, a small town nearby for lunch and a glass or two. Seated outside a cafe we noticed that the main street was named “Rue de Birmingham”. So naturally two Brummies wanted to know the reason. I found the answer fascinating.
During the Battle of the Somme, Albert was razed to the ground. The only thing left standing was the Basilica Tower with the golden statue of the Madonna and Child on top. The statue leaning over at an angle of ninety degrees became a talisman for both sides and the myth grew around it that if the statue fell Germany would win the war. They duly bombarded it with shells at regular intervals, but by fair means and foul the British made sure, under cover of night, that the Madonna fell no further. So why a street named after a city so far away? The Birmingham (Brummegem) Pals Battalions, 14th, 15th &16th Royal Warwickshire Regiment raised by the City of Birmingham had fought and died in that area for most of WW1. So at the end of the war, in tribute to them and the bravery of the French people who had lived in underground tunnels, Birmingham paid for the restoration of the town of Albert. I was hooked by this historical information, about the sacrifices made by the Brummegem Pals, the legend of the Madonna and the support that the City of Birmingham gave to Albert. An idea for a story germinated in my mind and I soon got talking to Don about it and started outlining the plot for Brummegem Pals.” Says Don, “I was delighted to work with Malcolm on writing “Brummegem Pals and I particularly enjoyed carrying out the research. My interest in the First World War began in my teens. I was fascinated by the canvas & plywood aircraft of the period & by the men who flew them in combat. This led me to a life-long study of the First World War and particularly the trench war on the Western Front & in Gallipoli. When I gained my Private Pilot’s Licence in 1984 I bought an aircraft and I used to visit the many WW1 aircraft which still fly at Duxford, Old Warden & other smaller airfields. At the same time I studied Modern Political History at the University of Warwick. I’m not an expert - I’m a know-all! - and in that capacity I regularly lead Battlefield Tours to Ypres, Vimy Ridge & The Somme for Johnson’s Coaches of Henley.” The combination of Don’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Great War and Malcolm’s storytelling together with new songs and music and songs of the time will ensure that this tale of love, heartbreak and Brummie resilience is enjoyed by young and old alike. Fight to get a ticket!
The performance is at the Concordia Theatre, Hinckley on Saturday 21st November at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £19.50.
Box Office: 01455 615005 or online at www.concordiatheatre.co.uk