Early One Morning

Farnworth Little Theatre

Until March 23

Box Office: 0845 643 0808

JIM Smith is about as common as a name can get in these parts, but after being privileged to be in the opening night audience of Farnworth Little Theatre’s presentation of Les Smith fabulous piece, the name will have a totally different meaning to me from now on in.

Set in 1917, during the final battles of World War One the origins of the play have a poignancy that saw Private James Smith receive a posthumous pardon some 70 years after his sentencing.

Jason Crompton’s direction is thorough, clear, concise and most of all, enthralling as each and every nuance has been researched and delivered resulting in a tear jerking, though provoking production that displayed great team effort and outstanding individual performances.

Matt Rigby convinces as Sergeant Fielding, complete with Irish accent, presenting a commanding demeanour throughout. Michael Howarth is equally as authoritative as Major Watson, as along with Lieutenant Collins, played astutely by Alfred Howard and Lieutenant Pierce, played with conviction by Ben Kilburn, the debate over the punishment due to Private James Smith for his alleged desertion and cowardice is vehemently discussed following his refusal to speak during his trial. Decision finally made, his last few hours are upon him.

With his fate is unknown to him, Jim embarks on a relationship with Nurse Cartwright who he meets whilst in Townleys hospital. Catherine Cropper breezes through this role. With a delightful voice, Catherine sings through some familiar tunes of the time.

Back in Flanders, Jim’s colleagues are discussing the task that lies ahead of them. Ben Kilburn (Lance Corp Bradley), Michael Davis (Private Webster) and Alfred Howard (Private McKinnel) work well together all using versatility in accents, pathos, and characterisation which provided a great standard of acting that was believable and felt real.

James Haslam has the unenviable task of taking on the role of Jim Smith. Not an easy task, given the intensity of the story and the need for this actor to fully immerse themselves into the mind of this character, but it was no surprise to see James Haslam grasp this with both hands and make short work of bringing this character to life. This engaging performance was energetic, emotional and passionate, resulting in a masterclass from James on how to become the character you are playing without ever over playing – a skill which James proves he is able to employ with ease. The final scene was especially well done by all involved and rendered the visibly emotional audience speechless as they gathered their belongings and left the auditorium.

With support from Gareth Mabon, Chris Wilson and Jim Smith as Regimental Privates this successful production was complimented by an excellently designed realistic set and authentic costumes which culminates into a stunning all round production.

Paul Cohen