The Lucky Durhams – The First Day of the Somme at Zoo Southside is a very moving play by Youth Connection Theatre Company, centred around three fictitious soldiers but against a historically accurate background.
We first meet our trio in the trenches on 29th June 1916, soaked through, sharing their space with rats, as they wait for the order to come to take action. At the same time, we are updated on reports in their local paper, The Chester-Le-Street Chronicle, read out by the Editor as he sits at his typewriter to the side of the stage.
By eavesdropping on these members of the Durham Light Infantry, nicknamed The Lucky Durhams, we share their frustrations, fears and uncertainty, along with some black humour, as they move to the frontline trenches and get ready to attack.
The first day of the Somme, 1st July 1916, is one of noise and chaos, and the Durham Light Infantry suffered 150 fatalities; one survivor, confused and broken, describes it as “like walking into Hell”. However, this contrasts sharply with the “jolly good show, well fought” attitude of the newspaper report.
The Lucky Durhams is a well performed and extremely moving play, even more so as the company itself is from Chester-Le-Street and may well have had ancestors who lost their lives at the Somme.
Review by Lisa Sibbald