Set around the relationship between two men in the First World War, in an era when being a gay soldier was an act of treason, this is a well-performed, polished piece of writing that feels perfect for a transfer to BBC Radio Four’s Afternoon Play slot.
When an old diary is discovered in a box of junk, we are transported back in time to the trenches where its owner, James, and his friend and soon-to-be lover, Robert, are battling “the Bosch” and trying to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of horrors they rarely speak about. Waiting at home is Robert’s cousin Nora, who’s experiencing the aftermath of war, as a nurse, and who James has resigned himself to marrying.
Gaelle Stark-Ordish’s authentic, rattling dialogue captures the clipped tones of “chaps from Cambridge”, while Richard Hills-Ingyon and Samuel Morgan bring out the men’s camaraderie through two fine performances. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die,” they repeatedly toast. War songs, beautifully sung, and the pragmatic exchanges between the men create a heartfelt but refreshingly understated piece – something that makes its inevitably sad ending all the more effective.
Written for The Scotsman