On the evening of Friday 20th March, The City of Leicester College provided an apt and intimate setting for a performance of Barbed Wire for Kisses (A Village at War).

Barbed Wire for Kisses is a compelling performance of story and song, delightfully combined to convey an empathetic and moving insight into the First World War. The experiences felt on the home front are captured through a refreshing perspective on a theme so extensively addressed in poetry and prose.

Hugh Lupton and Nick Hennessey relate the tales of one small Parish through the tradition of oral story telling. Folk music and song, in customs reminiscent of the time, is written and performed by John Dipper and James Patterson.

Hugh Lupton and Neil Hennessey’s research, using the Lincolnshire Archives, provided a window into the life and times of people that prepared for and lived through war. We are treated to actual diary entries of the inhabitants, and reflective letters sent by men serving on the front-line. The realism of the readings is heightened by achingly poignant melody and lyrics sensitive to their subject.

The performers’ compassionate treatment of the characters manifested from the start, as we are introduced to normal, day-to-day lives in a small and idyllic English village. An immediate attachment develops between the audience and characters depicted in the piece and we wait eagerly for their individual stories to unfold.

The closeness of the community in Lincolnshire is vividly portrayed as inhabitants come together to enlist for service, and bid farewell to their sons, husbands and brothers leaving to serve in the war. A young courter leaves his sweetheart, a father sees off his son, too young and too eager to serve. We sense the bravery of the men, and feel the perseverance of those left at home.

Alas, this is the story of truth, and with that comes the reality of events. We sympathise with characters that are broken by the news of loss, and admire the resolve of the ones who return from the battlefield. By the end, the performers have guided us on an emotional journey, with proficiency and flair.

As the performance draws to a close, a poem is read preceded by a song reflective of the melancholy that fills the room. Time continues to stand still, and it dawns upon us that the riveting enactment has come to an end. The life and times of the small Lincolnshire village will not end there, for they will be imbedded in the memories of those who were fortunate to attend ‘Barbed Wire for Kisses’ for many years to come.

Fazila Bhana

Evington Echo

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