EFR - Reviews of And The Horse You Rode In On

And The Horse You Rode In On

Mon 4th – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Rob Collins

at 10:28 on 6th Aug 2014

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In three acts, Tom Stuchfield’s And The Horse You Rode In On takes us into the lives of ten soldiers, five German and five British during World War One in the final twenty minutes before they go over the top. We are first presented with the German dugout as three friends struggle under the brutality of superior officers and the general ugliness of their situation.

The actors took a while to settle into this first scene, with lines being rushed and at times inaudible and unfortunately, though this improved as the show progressed, it was a problem that never entirely went away. The direction too was unimaginative. It became clear after the first ten minutes that wherever the characters ended up after their initial entrance was where they were going to stay for the rest of the scene. In the end I simply gave up waiting for someone to move anywhere and resigned myself to the fact that economy of movement was the name of the game.

The second act allowed us into the lives of British soldiers on the other side of no man’s land. Whilst it offered some comic relief, (and generally stronger acting across the board), many of the problems from the first act were still very much in evidence. The changeover between the scenes was also clunky and too long given that very little changed in terms of set. Probably the highlight of the play was the third act which saw a meeting in no man’s land between one of the British and German soldiers from the opening two scenes which was both intimate and moving,

All of this was let down by the writing. The endings of the first two acts came so suddenly that they were gone before we realized what was happening. The end of the third was frankly borderline farcical, not helped by the prop guns which, next to the otherwise impressive set, looked utterly absurd.

In every way this production had a great deal of potential. Structurally, showing us both the German and British trench before these two world collide in the final scene was an effective idea and, especially given the significance of this year, an opportunity to remind the audience of the terrible loss of life inflicted on both sides and the universality of suffering.

The characterization was also generally strong (though the performances from the actors ranged from the extremely impressive Chris Born to disappointingly underwhelming). It just felt like they were trying to do too much within the hour time limit, meaning that it was very difficult for the audience to make any sort of personal connection with the characters that a longer show would have allowed.

There is much to be commended here but unfortunately it is let down by a number of problems that left me feeling too much of an outsider to have any sort of investment in these characters or their stories.

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Jessica Piette

at 01:38 on 8th Aug 2014

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I was moved to tears tonight by the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club’s outstanding production of And The Horse You Rode In On, which portrays the last couple of hours spent by soldiers on the British and German front line, before being sent into battle over No Man’s Land. This year happens to be the First World War centenary, meaning that a hundred years ago, men were facing the atrocities committed in the trenches.

The play was split into three thirds. The first presented the audience with a stark depiction of life in the German trenches, followed by a parallel scene in a British bunker, and finally culminated in a poignant finale in the third part. The writing was wonderfully witty and believable, and the directing was perfect, with one of the piece’s strongest points being the interaction between the characters.

The actors managed to draw the audience into the scene completely, and at times I was transported to the trenches, and was able to fully appreciate the horror and tragedy of the characters’ circumstances. I could find no fault in the cast, yet the stand-out member was undoubtedly Chris Born, who played, with a great deal of control and sensitivity, the wise and bold German soldier Volker, and his English double Shy.

Marcus Martin’s performance was charming as the shy Heiner, and Spencer convincingly represented the young child-soldiers of the First World War in a way which invoked both compassion and admiration from the audience. Will Peck played a fearsome Meinhard and Wilkinson, Johnny Falconer the brave and fearless Everhart and Fletcher, and Raph Wakefield’s contrasting characters managed to convey the different ways in which authority can affect the subordinate. He played both the cruel Urban and the sweet, eager to please Dixon, and was absolutely amazing.

Overall, this was a wonderful piece and well worth the time to go and see. It brought to life with startling sincerity the difficulties faced by soldiers on the front line, and focused on just how powerful the extent of human compassion can be in the face of adversity.

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