PREVIEW: Shot at Dawn, Dorchester Arts

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A new performance of the WWI play by BAFTA award-winning scriptwriter John Foster Directed by Kirstie Davis.

After a sell-out performance of BAFTA award-winning scriptwriter John Foster’s gripping courtroom drama Shot at Dawn, atmospherically staged in Bournemouth Town Hall’s Council Chambers, Doppelganger Productions is launching a Dorset wide tour of the performance in April 2016. It arrives in Dorchester on Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 April and will be rather poignantly, performed in the historic Shire Hall.

This compelling and emotional drama is based on the true story of two young men from the Dorsetshire Regiment, on trial for cowardice; the outcome if a guilty verdict could lead to execution by firing squad.

John Foster spent time studying the original transcripts from the trials, which were until recently restricted from public access. Now for the first time this material is available, and combined with first-hand eyewitness letters, diaries and accounts, the story reveals how these two heroes were suffering from what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, yet were condemned to death for their perceived disloyalty. The strength and originality of this new production has been acknowledged with support from national funding through the Arts Council Grants for the Arts, Heritage Lottery, Big Lottery Fund, West Dorset District Council, Arts University Bournemouth and Borough of Poole.

Writer, John Foster, explains the motivation behind the play: “The Great War is currently well- documented and life in the trenches depicted in often harrowing detail. Most narratives focus upon the heroism of soldiers, the incompetence of the commanders and the futility of war.” He continues: “Shot at Dawn tells a different story. A stain on the memory of many soldiers who served remained until 2006 when a general pardon was issued by the British Government to three-hundred-and-sixty British and Commonwealth soldiers who had been summarily court martialled for cowardice and shot at dawn.”

Shot At Dawn

The touring production will be dramatically brought to life as it is performed in historic courtrooms across Dorset. Kirstie Davis, Play Director said: ‘We are particularly honoured to be the last company to perform in the Dorchester Shire Hall this year, as it has now closed to the general public for thorough refurbishments. The audience will be offered the unique chance to explore the Georgian courtroom and cells where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried and held, before they reopen next year’, she added: ‘There will also be performances at the magnificent Guildhall in Poole, formerly the town’s Magistrate’s Court; the historic Corn Exchange in Blandford Forum and the intimate Council Chambers in Bridport’s original Town Hall. All the venues reinforce the stark reality that soldiers were denied legal representation and the right of appeal’.

With 8 performances in 4 unique locations, audiences can expect a truly unique piece of theatre with a chance to learn more by attending the programme of talks and Q & A’s.

There is also a chance to come along to one of the four afternoon Tea Dances, to help build up the Living Memories project of Dorset during the great war. The Dorchester Tea Dance will be held at the Corn Exchange on Tuesday 12 April, 2-4pm. Tickets are £3 and are available on the door. Attendees can expect an afternoon of socialising, dancing to FB Pocket Orchestra, with tea and cake for refreshments.

For more details and booking visit www.dorchesterarts.org.uk or call Dorchester Arts box office 01305 266926.

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