Leyland reverend’s play at the Fringe

1/ Paul Critchley from Poulton and Kirsty Gwyn-Thomas from Buckshaw Village near Chorley, who play Tom and Lizzie in Home Front/Front Line
1/ Paul Critchley from Poulton and Kirsty Gwyn-Thomas from Buckshaw Village near Chorley, who play Tom and Lizzie in Home Front/Front Line

An emotionally-charged short play about life in World War Two is being performed this week at the world famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Home Front/Front Line was written by Reverend Canon David Banbury from Leyland.

David, who is the Church of England Diocese’s Parish Mission Support Leader, said he was “absolutely thrilled” at taking the play to the festival.

“It’s amazing to think that a lad who failed English at school should end up writing a play that appears at such a famous event,” he quipped.

“We have already performed the play in a number of churches as part of 1940s weekends across Lancashire and Greater Manchester and people who see it find it to be a heart-warming and moving story, with a clear Christian message at the heart of it.

“Taking our little show on a big new adventure to the Fringe is an amazing opportunity to share the play with a much wider audience.”

Home Front/Front Line is produced in association with Blackburn Creative Arts group and is a 50-minute look at life in the war through the eyes of a young couple - Lizzie and Tom - serving their country in the Women’s Land Army at home and on the front line abroad.

The Fringe appearance came about after a conversation between David and a friend of his who had seen the play and thought it was ideal for the event.

After some serious prayer, the decision was made to make the approach to Fringe organisers.

They agreed straightaway. Costs, including accommodation for the actors, are being met through generosity of local churches in Edinburgh.

Kirsty Gwyn-Thomas, from Buckshaw Village, plays the part of Lizzie.

She said: “Home Front/Front Line tells the extraordinary events of World War Two through the lives of two ordinary people.

“My character Lizzie is a young woman who goes from a dull office job to helping to run a farm in wartime.

“The play highlights the massive changes that happened in peoples’ lives during the war.”

Paul Critchley, a Methodist minister in Poulton-le-Fylde, who plays the part of Tom, said: “I find it a very moving story and playing Tom, whose life is totally changed by the war, is a great privilege.

“Being able to perform at the Fringe is a thrilling development we couldn’t have anticipated when we started out.”

The story of Lizzie and Tom is based on diary entries, letters and official historical records from the Durham Light Infantry and the stunning multi-media presentation seeks to celebrate love, commitment and faith in the face of separation, hardship and conflict.

The play launched yesterday and is being staged at the Lime Studio, Greenside@NicolsonSquare, 25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, through to Saturday to 19th at 6.30pm.

It lasts about 50 minutes. There is no charge for admission, but it is a ticketed performance and tickets are bookable in advance. Donations after the performance are encouraged but not compulsory.

Cost of booking is 80p per ticket up to a maximum of £4.80 for six or more tickets. The box office telephone number is 0131 226 0026, or tickets can also be booked through the website www.edfringe.com.

You can follow the play on Twitter @HomeFrontFrontL

David also wrote Brothers in Arms, a deeply moving play set during the First World War and produced by The Church of England in Lancashire and the Lancashire Methodist Church District.

It tells the remarkable story of identical twins Noel and Christopher Chavasse, sons of the then Bishop of Liverpool, who served together with great distinction on the Western Front. It toured Lancashire in 2015 and 2016 and further dates are booked later this year.