PREVIEW: D-Day Veterans To Attend Verbatim Fringe Play About Their Experiences


[email protected] hosts the story of five ordinary young men facing extraordinary circumstances on the Normandy beaches.

The acclaimed verbatim play ‘Bomb Happy’, which brings to life the first-hand accounts of five Normandy Veterans, will be come to the Fringe as part of a commemorative tour to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

It follows the stories of ordinary lads who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Veteran infantrymen Ken Smith, Ken Cooke and Bert Barritt, whose stories form the play will accompany it to Edinburgh, where it is being staged as part of this year’s [email protected] programme in association with Summerhall.

Ken Cooke, aged 93, saw part of his frontline service as a member of the Highland Light Infantry. He says: “We are delighted to be accompanying the actors to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to mark the 75th Anniversary, and are hoping to attend several of the performances if we can.

“We enjoy meeting with audiences after the show and having the opportunity to talk with them about our experiences.”

Ken Smith, 94, adds: “When the idea for a play using our memories came about back in 2016 we never thought we would still be here for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day to see it performed at the Edinburgh Fringe!”

Image: Bomb Happy

The play first toured in 2017 tour and earned a string of excellent reviews.

Richard Beck, (Broadway Baby ?????) described the play as “ a verbatim victory… a lasting legacy to the five men whose words made it possible and a triumphant tribute to the many who gave their lives in liberating Europe.”

Unlike traditional verbatim theatre, with actors cast of appropriate age to interviewees, the playwright, Helena Fox, chose to write the characters at the age of conscription… an “inspired device” according to Beck, which “heightens the already vivid language and provides a powerful sense of immediacy.”

This powerful production follows the five veterans’ unique journeys and how they found themselves, as inexperienced young conscripts, as part of one of the most dangerous and audacious operations of World War II.

At times humorous, at times harrowing the play allows a close up insight into life on the frontline.

Ken Cooke (left) and Ken Smith. Image: Bomb Happy

The play’s only fictional character, Queenie (played by Beryl Nairn), gives the accounts of Normandy veterans’ wives – highlighting the lifelong impact of post traumatic stress disorder and gives a glimpse into life with someone beset by memories of war.

Bomb Happy takes its name from a term the veterans use to describe PTSD – a condition that still impacts on the lives of Ken Cooke and Ken Smith 75 years later.

Playwright Helena Fox believes the play resonates with contemporary issues facing society.

She says: “The play not only documents the events of D-Day and beyond through the eyes of these young men, but opens our eyes as civilians to the human story behind each fighting soldier.

“This allows us to better understand the enormity facing the returning soldier – from World War II or more recent conflicts – in trying to transition back into civilian life. How can he or she fit back into the day to day life of Civvy Street after everything they have seen, or been through?”

Show Information

Venue: Army @ The Fringe in association with Summerhall (Venue 210), 89 East Claremont Street, Edinburgh, EH7 4HU

Dates: 13th – 25th August

Times: 13-15 and 20-22 Aug at 14:20. 16-18 and 23-25 Aug at 15:40

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