Accrington Pals line up at Royal Exchange

Published: 16 December 2012
Reporter: David Upton

Accrington Pals

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre brings its current season to a close with The Accrington Pals—Peter Whelan’s powerful drama based on the real-life story of a group of young men from the Lancashire mill town who left their homes and lovers for the First World War trenches of the Somme.

This new production runs at the Exchange from Thursday January 17 to Saturday February 16.

At the outbreak of war, in towns across Britain, groups of young men volunteered to form what became know as 'Pals' Battalions'. Tragically, the scale of casualties meant millions of these friends were never to return.

Accrington was the smallest town in England to raise a battalion. The play tells the story of Tom Hackford who marches off with his pals and how a Lancashire community was decimated at a stroke. In the first 10 minutes of action, hundreds were killed, leaving their hometown devastated.

The pals’ experiences of life on the Front are contrasted with those of the women left behind as they struggle to adjust to life during wartime.

Guest director James Dacre makes his Royal Exchange debut with this production. His recent credits include Shakespeare’s As You Like It at The Globe and Katori Hall’s Olivier award-winning play The Mountaintop at The Trafalgar Studios.

Talking about the play, he said: “Today in a world where, I believe, many of us have forgotten the value of community and the importance of coming together in a time of crisis, The Accrington Pals looks back at a community brave enough to change the way that they went about their lives. In doing so it asks ‘How can we get along with one another? How can we get along better? Who are we together and how is that changing?’”