Andy Daniel talks about making a hundred year old Michael Morpurgo play relevant in 2018

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I went to the University of Bristol where I studied Drama, and then trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. You could say I have an affinity for the West Country despite being born and raised in South London and being half Scottish!

I have worked professionally as an actor for the last 9 years and have been fortunate enough to perform in some great shows and venues including Journey’s End in the West End and the The History Boys and The Railway Children. I’ve also appeared on TV in Call the Midwife, Doctors and the US show Legends with Sean Bean.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Private Peaceful is an adaptation of a wonderful book by Michael Morpurgo. The show takes place over one night as a young World War One soldier, Tommo Peaceful, awaits the firing squad at dawn. This might make it sound like quite a depressing tale but there is a great deal of humour and warmth. He relives his joyful childhood in Devon, his close bond with his brother Charlie and the adventures he has with Molly, the love of his life. He also recounts the hardship and horrors that he and his brother face after volunteering to fight. It’s a one man show so all the characters are portrayed by me as Tommo – I think that allows the audience to really get to know and love the character who is, in my opinion, one of the kindest, open and joyful characters in all of literature.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I was lucky enough to perform in Private Peaceful in 2014 both on tour and at the Edinburgh Festival. I am now revisiting the role four years later and am so excited to be playing Tommo again; it’s like saying hello to an old friend!

Despite the play being set a hundred years ago, it still has huge relevance for a modern audience. The 306 soldiers who were executed for cowardice in WW1 were only posthumously pardoned in 2006 and it is clear that most, if not all of these, were men who were genuinely suffering from shellshock (or as we would now call it PTSD) and their deaths are a tragedy that should never be forgotten. Michael originally wrote the novel back in 2003 to help highlight this injustice and I think Tommo’s story is one that still has huge relevance today when so many young men and women are joining up to fight in the Armed Forces.

As well as this, the story is a great introductory piece for kids to learn about WW1. The book is studied in loads of schools and I think the play helps them to understand this world further.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
For performers I would say, enjoy the Festival but look after yourself as well. A month with only one day off needs a bit of stamina, so go easy on the nights out early on!

For visitors it would be not to try and see too much. It can be a little overwhelming on a first visit so planning what you want to see in advance and sticking to around three shows a day is probably the best tactic to avoid feeling a bit stressed!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
There has been a fair few incidents over the years. The one that springs to mind is when I mistimed a bit of stage combat in Journey’s End and ended up head-butting my fellow cast member. Luckily for him he was wearing a WW1 tin helmet, unluckily for me I wasn’t! I ended up coming off stage with a large cut above my eye which needed stitches. I still have the scar to this day.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Wow, there are a fair few. In theatre I am a big fan of Jamie Parker, who recently finished playing Harry Potter in the Cursed Child. He is such an honest and truthful actor who I have a lot of respect for. On screen I love watching Sam Rockwell. He was brilliant in Three Billboards but has been doing great, unselfish work for years in films such as The Green Mile, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind etc. I like actors who really collaborate and support their fellow actors on stage or screen and those two definitely do that.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
My main ritual is to do a really comprehensive voice warm up. But for each show you definitely develop little superstitions. For Private Peaceful I had a couple of songs I would always listen to, so I imagine I will be putting together another playlist this time!

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I have a couple of mates doing shows this year so I am looking forward to seeing those. Generally though I tend to go up there with a bit of an open mind and just see what takes my fancy! That’s part of the joy of being up there for the whole month I guess.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
I think Private Peaceful is definitely a show that can appeal to people of all ages. I have had a man in his 80s come up to me in tears afterwards because he was so moved by the show and then children of 8 or 9 who come in chatting away but within minutes are enraptured by the show and completely silent. So basically, I think it is a show that really ticks all the boxes!

Underbelly Bristo Square (Cow Barn), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG
Wednesday 1st – Monday 27th August 2018 (not 13th), 14:40


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