The Beaches of St Valery
A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
A series of letters to a much loved brother, link events in Scotland and France, before and during WWII. They’re written by Callum, a young Cameron Highlander in the British Expeditionary Force, captured at St Valery by the victorious German Army. He faces deportation to Poland until fate intervenes, in the form of a patriotic French lass and her father.
The cast of three (Ron Donachie, James Rottger and Ashley Smith) are excellent and ably assisted by the clever use of back-projected images of the time (embarking Scottish troops, battle damaged towns, advancing tanks and triumphant Wehrmacht officers). Sound also plays its part, from the rasping cry of a corncrake in the Scottish Highlands to the menacing drone of planes over Normandy, from the war time songs of Britain and France to the cast’s live and haunting version of the of The Flowers o’ the Forest.
The contentious subject of the sacrifice of the 51st Highland Division at St Valery is explored in discussions between the older sergeant and younger soldiers. The former stressing the need to continue fighting to ensure the French army doesn’t collapse, the latter bemoaning the lack of bullets. We are reminded how quickly young men grow up in times of war – and how some don’t have that opportunity.
Reviewer : David G Moffat