A new piece of touring music theatre, which explores how women, families and communities on the home front were affected by the First World War, opens at Perth’s Station Hotel tonight
The date is 1917, and the war across the channel rages on.
In Russia, a revolution is turning the social order on its head while at home in Britain, women are fighting their own battles.
Rents are rising. Food is scarce. And war work can be deadly.
Opening at Perth’s Station Hotel tonight, The 306: Day – part two in a new First World War trilogy – focuses on three women and their resistance to war, as well as their struggle to survive in a world that won’t listen.
Partially set in Glasgow, featuring a contemporary score performed live by Red Note Ensemble, the show is written by Oliver Emanuel, composed by Gareth Williams, directed by Jemima Levick and designed by Becky Minto.
The first part, The 306: Dawn, premiered last summer and was set around the events of the Battle of the Somme, marking the centenary of the Somme Offensive.
Staged in a barn at Dalcrue Farm near Pitcairngreen, Perthshire, the play charted the heart-breaking and real-life stories of the 306 men executed for cowardice and desertion and the devastating consequences for those they left behind.
For anyone who missed this fantastic and insightful performance, director Jemima Levick insists the new show is very much a “separate play”.
“You don’t have to have seen part one; this is a very different story,” she says.
“This is the women’s story. It’s about those left behind on the home front. They kept industry going and crucially, they began to take action against war.
“The show tackles the forgotten stories of these women. It’s about staying silent and speaking out, fighting for peace and giving in to violence.”
Focusing on three women, the production follows Nellie Murray who works at a Glasgow munitions factory but is also a member of the Women’s Peace Crusade.
Then there’s Gertrude Farr. Struggling to cope after the execution of her husband for cowardice, Gertrude has a young daughter and doesn’t know where to turn.
We also follow the story of Mrs Byers as she waits for news of her son. He ran off to join the army at the beginning of the war and she prays for word of his safe return.
The choice of venue for each performance – in meeting places and civic venues where people signed up for war – is important.
“The platform at Perth Station is really long and boys from the Highlands gathered there in droves,” says Jemima.
“The Marryat Hall in Dundee, the venue on May 25, is where people used to sign up, while they protested at nearby Caird Hall.”
While the show is full of moving and poignant moments, there are times when audience members will find their hearts soaring.
“Yes, there’s sadness and loss but also moments of hope. And yes, we want people to take away some positives,” says Jemima.
“These women took action, made changes, and the play resonates with the world we’re living in today. Women are protesting across the globe about their rights and making their voices heard. If there’s a message to convey, it’s ‘let’s not let this happen again’.”
Inspired by real events and first-hand accounts, The 306: Day is co-produced by National Theatre of Scotland (NTS), Perth Theatre, and Stellar Quines, in association with Red Note Ensemble.
The set has been reconstructed from timber used to clad Dalcrue Barn.
The show runs at Perth’s Station Hotel from May 5-13, before touring Scotland, including dates in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Lockerbie and a night at Dundee’s Marryat Hall on May 25.
Silence and song
Local Perthshire women have helped create a new piece of First World War performance to accompany the opening of the upcoming production of The 306: Day.
On the evening of May 6, audiences will have the chance to experience the piece, inspired by “silent protest” and representing women’s protests over the last 100 years, outside the Station Hotel before attending the opening performance.
The performance will form part of a wider creative learning project, titled Silence & Song, researching the role of women on the home front during the First World War. The project, created in partnership with Perth Theatre and Glasgow Women’s Library, has invited local women to help develop a creative installation inspired by “silk postcards” popular with British troops during the conflict. This artwork will open at the Station Hotel before touring Scotland alongside the production.
An artist’s film created for this project by Graeme Roger will also feature as an installation across single and multiple screens at Perth Concert Hall‘s Threshold artspace fro May 5 to 13 and thereafter as part of Horsecross Arts’ permanent museum collection of contemporary art.
The 306: Day – Women in WW1, a discussion event about the themes of the production, will also take place at the Station Hotel, on May 8 from 7pm to 8.30pm. This event will focus on the making of The 306: Day and the history and research behind the women and families featured in the piece. The talk will also discuss the role women played on the front line and the home front during the First World War. The speakers will include Oliver Emanuel (writer) and Gareth Williams (composer) as well as researcher and historian Dr Lesley Orr. The discussion will be chaired by Jane Fowler, formerly Co-ordinator of BBC Scotland’s WW1 Programming. This event is free but ticketed.
Tickets are available from Perth Concert Hall Box Office on 01738 621031 or horsecross.co.uk.