The Play-Reading

  • This Play-Reading has been adapted from the book A Village at War.
  • The text for this Play-Reading has been taken from the Newdigate Parish Magazine, the Dorking Advertiser, letters and anecdotes passed on by descendants and personal interviews.
  • It tells the story of a small country village in Surrey during the First World War. The story could be about any village or community as it describes how the war affected every facet of life throughout the land.
  • It has been designed to assist students who are studying this period of history as it brings the subject to life in a personal and poignant way. These were real people, not just facts and figures, and one has a real empathy for the people and the times in which they lived. Much of the text is taken from the local paper and parish magazine and records the actual words spoken by the villagers.
  • Major events come alive as students can see how they affected ordinary folk because the story is told in the words spoken by them.
  • Students feel involved as the cast of four come from within their own peer group.
  • The audience will be moved and will have a greater understanding and a desire to learn more about the subject.
  • The material is cheap to purchase via PayPal and can be simply downloaded.
  • This is a potential fund raiser as the play-reading can also be staged for parents, carers, guardians and friends for an entrance fee. Inevitably the subject is then discussed at home and becomes a family interest rather than a subject that the student studies alone and by themselves.
  • The play-reading does not require many rehearsals and can be staged successfully after just a couple of practice readings.
  • The cast consists of four readers. The Rector, The Commentator, The War Correspondent and the Home Correspondent and their parts are clearly colour coded in the script. To add to the atmosphere the players can be dressed in costume.
  • PowerPoint 2010/2013 is required to ensure smooth playback.  We include the FREE PowerPoint viewer for those without the latest microsoft software.  An IT enthusiast can operate a lap top and overhead projector and display images on to a screen behind the readers. Appropriate music can be played and again the timings for both pictures and music are colour coded in the script.

The Cast

The cast consists of four readers. The Rector, The Commentator, The War Correspondent and the Home Correspondent and their parts are clearly colour coded in the script. To add to the atmosphere the players can be dressed in costume.



  • Audition for the cast. Ideally the Commentator and Home Correspondent should be female and the Rector and War Correspondent should be male. However, this is not imperative.
  • Select an operator for the computer/projector. The presentation is greatly enhanced with the use of the pictures and music which are provided via power point. The operator follows the script and at the appropriate time, which is clearly shown, the space bar is clicked and the picture and/or music appears. The pictures can be moved forwards or backwards by the click of the arrow button.
  • Conduct rehearsals. As there are no lines to learn these do not need to be extensive. Each part is colour coded Commentator, Home Correspondent, Rector, War Correspondent.
  • Allow for one ‘live’ rehearsal at the venue. Also include the pictures and music to ensure good timing.
  • Position the cast at tables opposite each other and at an angle towards the wall where the pictures will be displayed. This way the audience can see the cast and the pictures.
  • Obtain costumes – again this is optional.
  • Download the programme notes and insert the details relating to your organization and print enough for your expected audience. Or simply use it as a template and insert your own notes.
  • Also download the posters and again insert details such as date and venue.

Nb. Much of the text actually comes from contemporary newspapers and parish magazines.


  • The presentation starts with the Lark Ascending by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams which is accompanied by pictures of the village taken at the beginning of the twentieth century. Vaughan Williams lived just a few miles away from Newdigate and his music was influenced by the countryside. This creates a peaceful, pastoral setting and can be run as the members of the audience are taking their seats. It lasts for fourteen minutes but can be finished when everyone is ready.
  • The cast then take their places and It’s a long, long way to Tipperary is played. After a short interval the Commentator says “1914”.
  • An interval is taken at the end of 1915. This first part of the reading should last about one hour.
  • After the interval play Roses are Blooming in Picardy and then the Commentator says “1916”.
  • At the end and after ‘We will remember them’ the cast turn their heads to the screen and watch the names of all the dead servicemen being scrolled to the sound of Elgar’s Nimrod.
  • The second half should last just under an hour.

What’s Included

The resource consists of:

  • The script which can be downloaded and copied
  • An authored PowerPoint presentation to display the AV elements.  (We have provided a free PowerPoint viewer, so don’t worry if you don’t have PowerPoint.)  Please ensure you view the PowerPoint in show mode and follow the prompts on the script accordingly.  Navigation is best done by pressing the space bar or right arrow key.  To ensure the music is heard we suggest connecting your PC to a set of external speakers.
  • A programme and poster template which can be downloaded to include details of your own production.

The result is a moving experience for the students as they seamlessly follow all the major events of the war as read by their own peers which will greatly assist their further advanced studies.