Number 60 to the Somme is a funny, inventive, touching new play-with-songs in two acts – a completely fresh angle on the 1914-18 conflict. First performed by Chichester Community Theatre in November 2015, it sold out on word-of-mouth. Roger Redfarn directed with great finesse and simplicity – a table and two chairs, black-and-white photo projections.
Written with journalist and author Carol Godsmark, the show has 14 speaking roles but only 7 actors are needed if doubling up. Many roles suit recent graduates.
The songs – cracking Edwardian music hall numbers – are out of copyright and all very easy, even for untrained voices.
The Great War was an extraordinary mobilisation of men, women, animals and machines. Over 1500 B-Type buses – open-topped, steel-wheeled, solid, dependable – were despatched to serve in Belgium and France. The London bus drivers went too and their vehicles became troop transports, mobile hospitals, pigeon lofts – they were put to any and every perilous use on the rough roads and tracks.
Number 60 to the Somme is the story of one such bus and one such driver, Jim Swift – and the comedy, tragedy and astonishing fortitude of this terrible conflict.