There Was A Soldier...

OpenCast

Stockbridge Church

From 15 August 2017 to 16 August 2017

Rating: *****

Review by Graeme Strachan

Far from the centre of the Fringe, in a bright and airy church, a score and more of performers ranging in age from teens to their seventies take the stage.

There Was a Soldier... is a two-hour marathon of music, bringing together a distinctly Scottish take on the First World War; ostensibly following the military career of David Wallace Dinwoodie but in truth simply plotting a path through the war in music and poetry.

OpenCast uses slides as a visual backing to undercut and reinforce the journey as we are led from the patriotic jaunts of "Your King and Country Want You" and the opening verses of "The Victory Parade" through the sardonic and darkly comic "Bombed Last Night" and "Hush, Here Comes a Whizzbang" culminating in a wistful look of "Only Remembered".

All are interwoven into the story of Dinwoodie, along with historical snippets about Bangour Hospital, the muster of ships in the Forth and the general feeling in Scotland.

It's an embarrassment of riches with rousing song throughout, as well as musical accompaniment. There is also the spectacle of Thoren Ferguson, playing his original composition "The Somme" on the Wilfred Owen violin, carved from a branch of sycamore from Craiglockhart Hospital's grounds, as well as the haunting highlight of a stunning a capella rendition of the dirge "Black is the Sun" sung by Lewis Carlyon.

Having only a criminally scant four performances, two each day, this touching and respectful tribute to the heroes of the Great War will likely be seen by far too few. A shame, but a wonderful experience nonetheless.