TORCH THEATRE: THE WOOD | STAGE PREVIEW
The Wood, which embarks on a virtual tour of Wales from Tue 22 June to Sat 3 July, is inspired by a true story. July 1916, and as the Battle Of The Somme rages, the 38th Welsh Division face the ferocity of the German army. Dan and Billy, soldiers in that troop, develop a friendship amidst a weeklong bombardment of artillery.
Billy, though, is killed on the Mametz Wood battlefield: Dan is devastated, while at home his pregnant wife is now widowed. A promise made by Dan, to support Billy’s family, presses severely on the surviving soldier. These traumatic experiences on the Western Front hitting his mental state similarly hard, Dan returns home to offer comfort to the wife of his friend.
We find out he went on to marry Billy’s widow and raise their baby son as his own. Skip forward half a century: Dan returns to Mametz Wood for something of a personal reckoning.
The play’s writer Owen Thomas (also behind acclaimed Welsh rugby drama Grav), in tandem with Milford Haven’s Torch Theatre Production Company, initially devised The Wood to commemorate the centenary of World War I ending. This revived, streamed version reunites the original cast that toured in 2018, with Ifan Huw Dafydd as Dan and Gwydion Rhys as Billy – alongside the original creative team, director Peter Doran and set designer Sean Crowley.
Recorded on stage live at the Torch Theatre itself during lockdown this year, under COVID-19 restrictions, several other Welsh theatres are hosting The Wood: namely Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, Pontardawe Arts Centre, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Theatr Clwyd and Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre. Tickets are also available directly from these theatres via their websites, based on a ‘pay what you can’ principle. Issued to one stream per household, The Wood can be watched as many times as you like for 48 hours from the screening date.
The Wood, online courtesy of the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, Tue 22 June-Sat 3 July. Tickets: pay what you can. Info: here
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS