When Exmouth based playwright and actress Jane Bennett (O’Connell) decided to write a play that would commemorate the centenary of World War One, she had not appreciated how all-consuming this would become.

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Not only did she discover interesting facts concerning local Devon involvement in the war but that her own grandfather had fought at the Somme, the battle her play is based upon. The ever popular Nightshade Theatre Company’returns to the Manor Pavilion Theatre, with its premier of their new play Honour Bound. The play is set in 1916 and tells the story of a Devon family and their experiences during the Great War. Although a poignant drama, the play is also tinged with humour, which was one of the elements Jane was keen to portray in this production. During her research, Jane was touched by the camaraderie and banter, which seemed to be so much a part of life ‘at the front’ and the ability to maintain good spirits in the bleakest of situations.

Based on true events, Honour Bound is centred around the 9th Devonshire regiment, who, under the command of Captain DL Martin and despite suffering great casualties and loss of life, were instrumental in the capture of Mametz. It was a fitting tribute to these men that Unteroffizier Paul Scheytt, of the German army, recalled the resilience of the ‘Devon men’:

“We heard the mines [at Fricourt] go up; then it was deathly quiet for a few moments. The English came walking, as though they were going to the theatre or as though they were on a parade ground. We felt they were mad.”

To this day, the Devonshire Cemetery near Mametz in France, marks the spot where so many of these brave men fell on that first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1916. A stone memorial, replacing a previous, wooden cross and bearing the simple words ‘The Devonshires held this trench. The Devonshires hold it still’ stands proudly in the cemetery.

Set in France and Devon and directed in its unique, innovative style by Janette Froud, the production stars James Pellow, Charlie Coldfield, Edward Daws and Ben Gilbert. There will be three performances on April 10 and 11, at 8pm and a matinee on April 11, at 2.30pm.

Tickets can be purchased from the Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth on 01395 514413. Group discounts are available.

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