Corn Exchange, Dorchester

WARTIME stories of bravery and hardship have come thick and fast during the past year but this true account of a young Birkenhead soldier’s World War 2 experiences is both spine-chilling and inspiring in equal measures with a sensitively written and unforgettable piece of theatre that stirs the soul.

David William Bryan takes to the stage in a one-man production that he not only performs but also wrote. It is an astonishing piece of theatre as he tells us how his great uncle Arthur Robinson joined the army at the beginning of the war and found himself on the way to Singapore.

The young soldier’s friendships with his mates form the basis of what becomes a heart-warming tale of loyalty and sacrifice that is seriously challenged by the horrific treatment that he and his army pals suffered in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp after they were shot down and sent to build the infamous Thailand railway line.

The actor David takes the audience on an emotional journey with his hero, the nicknamed Joe, a laddish Liverpool boy in love with Mary and we watch his story unfold until he becomes a tortured army prisoner writhing in agony while he tries to help his friend who is slowly dying.

For Joe, engulfed with disease and unspeakable cruelty, friendship to his faithful friend and fellow soldier George was his only lifeline in a powerful story that is brilliantly acted out to create a remarkable piece of physical theatre that stunned the audience with its truth and realism.

It was with considerable relief that we saw that Joe’s war had a happy ending with him safely back home with his family.