Follow Us on Twitter

For King and Country - Southwark Playhouse

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

DILATED Theatre Company is presenting For King and Country at Southwark Playhouse. Written by John Wilson and directed by Paul Tomlinson, it runs from June 28 to July 21, 2018.

This summer, to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, John Wilson’s military courtroom drama will be seen in London for the first time in half a century.

For King and Country follows a soldier’s court martial for desertion and the struggle of his defending officer to acquit the young man in the face of bureaucracy and his own naïve honesty. Many years before PTSD was officially recognised, it explores the brutality of war and what happened to the men who could take no more.

The play was originally performed as Hamp at the Edinburgh Festival in 1964 by a cast including Leonard Rossiter, John Hurt and Richard Briers, and was adapted into the BAFTA-nominated film King and Country.

1918. The Western Front. Private Hamp, a young working-class soldier from Lancashire, has been in the front-line of a bloody battlefield for three years. One day he decides to walk away…

For King and Country follows the shell-shocked soldier’s trial for desertion, and his defending officer’s fight to keep him from the firing squad.

Death sentences were passed by the British Army in court martials between 1914 and 1924 for offences such as sleeping on duty, cowardice, desertion, murder, mutiny and treason. Over 3,000 received a death sentence, but many of these sentences were later changed to other punishments, such as hard labour or penal servitude.

Producer Alexander Neal said: “I was given this play by a very good friend five years ago and was astounded I hadn’t known more about it, considering the quality of the story and the writing. I’ve been trying to put this “forgotten classic” on since then – and I am certain it will be worth the wait. For King and Country is just a terrific play, a tense, disconcerting courtroom drama set on the Front Lines of the First World War.

“I love courtroom dramas, and the stakes can’t get higher than this – set on the Western Front during WW1 we see military law in action, where the accusing side and defending side alike have experienced horrors beyond imagination and face adjudication for their actions in the face of this. We see in action a system full of pre-conceived ideas and pre-determined outcomes, with little consideration for exceptional circumstances or time to reflect on the accepted morality.”

Dilated Theatre Company was founded in 2011 by Alexander Neal with the aim to stage work speaking for the voiceless in society. Previous productions include Orphans at Southwark Playhouse (2016) and SUS by Barrie Keeffe at the Lion and Unicorn (2013), both directed by Paul Tomlinson.

Paul Tomlinson has been directing for many years with productions ranging from classics such as Death of a Salesman and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to The Who’s Tommy.

Casting will be announced in due course.

For King and Country is suitable for ages 12+.

Tickets: £20, £16 concessions (except Monday, July 9). To book, call the box office on 020 7407 0234 or visit southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/.

Gala Night (in support of the Royal British Legion): Monday, July 9. Tickets: £20.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Tuesday and Saturday matinees at 3pm.

Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes.

The world premiere of Old Fools continues at Southwark Playhouse until Saturday, April 7, 2018.