Based on the award-winning novel by Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse and The Butterfly Lion, this thrilling stage adaptation by Director Elle While, is a poignant and moving tribute to the casualties of the First World War and those that were left behind. Read on below for our full review.

The story is told through the eyes of Private Thomas ‘Tommo’ Peaceful (Daniel Rainford) a young soldier on the front lines of WW1. The Private is in trouble, an ominous voice booms out that soon he will be sentenced, but for what crime we do not know. We follow the Private over one night of his life on the front, as he looks back on his life and awaits an unknown fate.

We are transported through flashbacks of Thomas’s life, seamlessly transitioning from past to present with subtle lighting and wardrobe changes. Beginning in the countryside of Devon as a young Thomas and his big brother Charlie (Daniel Boyd) navigate the frivolity of school, work and summers down by the river.

Although the boys’ lives aren’t easy, the passing of their father and threats of eviction from their family home are just some of the early challenges that life throws at them, their childhood is nonetheless painted in rose-coloured hues. They are happy, and even falling for the same girl could do little to pry the two brothers apart.

When the war begins the young brothers both sign up, being voluntarily ripped from the idyllic Devon countryside and dropped into the horrors of war-ravaged Belgium, where they face German machinegun fire, vermin-ridden trenches, gas attacks and explosive shells.

Moments of drama are punctuated by occasional songs, ranging from playful ditties filled with child-like wonder to the mournful calls of battered soldiers. While action sequences are oft emphasised with dream-like, undulating dance sequences. These creative embellishments serve to give the story a sense of verse, as though the play were based upon an epic poem rather than a beloved children’s book.

The acting here is top-notch, without a single weak link in the ensemble cast. Daniel Boyd and Daniel Rainford play the Peaceful brothers with equal parts gusto and poise. Effectively portraying the giddy highs of young love and cheeky teen rebellion, whilst sensitively handling the terrifying reality of PTSD and the crushing finality of grief.

The supporting cast dutifully flits between multiple roles, balancing humour and drama equally. John Dougall was a particular highlight, transitioning from dutiful father to hapless colonel and grief-stricken chaplain with ease.

The set is kept largely the same throughout the performance and is practically a character all of its own. The mud-covered ground and rising trees spiral into twisted metal piping that stretches across the top of the set like barbed wire. A collision of worlds that can transform in an instant from the Devonshire countryside to war-torn Belgium.

Lighting and sound cues cut through the atmospheric haze that fills the stage as bombs erupt and flares shoot into the sky. Fully immersing the audience in the terrors of battle and effectively painting the grim reality of the First World War for these young soldiers. A gas attack in the second half of the show was a stand-out, bathing the theatre in a thick cloud of fog as Thomas desperately struggles to get his protective mask on straight.

All of these elements combine to create an intimate and compelling story of courage, love and loss in the face of unimaginable horror. Private Peaceful is a moving and wonderfully told rendition of Michael Morpurgos beloved novel and the brilliant ensemble cast deliver their roles with perfect sensitivity. You will be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the house when the curtains come up.

Blood Brothers is taking place at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham until this Saturday, 9th July, with two performances Thursday and Saturday. Tickets are available via the Everyman Theatre box office

For more events and live shows in Cheltenham check out our helpful guides -  Live Performances in Cheltenham and Summer in Cheltenham.


Everyman Theatre
Venue Provider
Everyman Theatre

The Everyman is Gloucestershire's theatre - and has been serving the county (and beyond) since 1891.



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