Friend Or Foe? Voices From World War One

Friend Or Foe block

FRED presents:

Friend Or Foe?

Voices From World War One

Century-old script receives World Premiere.

Forgotten Birmingham anti-war play revived.

A controversial tale from one of the founders of The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and a never-before performed script are among the 100-year-old plays being revived by Midlands’ theatre company FRED for Friend Or Foe?

Penned during World War One, these highly charged and emotional one-act plays reveal how writers during the period challenged authority, and questioned the roles of both men at the front, and women at home.

Born in 1882 and closely associated with the Dymock Poets (whose number included Rupert Brooke and Robert Frost), writer John Drinkwater became Stage Manager of the newly opened Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1913.

Written three years into WW1, Drinkwater’s X=0: A Night Of The Trojan War finds opposing soldiers openly discussing the folly of war. It was a highly contentious subject, yet the play’s historical setting helped it avoid censorship, and local newspaper reviews were initially positive.

However, X=0’s message about the human cost of war soon resulted in a backlash, with the Birmingham Mail later stating that Drinkwater was “apparently oblivious of all that England went to war for,” and called for the writer to experience the frontline first hand!

Published in The Englishwoman magazine in 1917, there is no record of The Munition Worker ever being staged, making FRED Theatre’s performance a much delayed world premiere.

The play was credited to ‘Alec Holmes’, the male pen-name of feminist writer Lady Aimée Byng Hall Scott, and taps into the suffragette struggles of the time. Unlike the other one-act plays on the bill, it also takes a pro-war stance as a though female factory worker, unable to fight on the Western Front like her male counterparts, resolves to work herself to death, making bombs, as her contribution to the war effort.

Invalided out of military service, actor and writer Miles Malleson was an outspoken supporter of the pacifist cause. Written in 1916, Black ‘Ell explores the distance between those at home and those who’ve experienced the horrors of war. As a young recruit is haunted by the killing of an enemy solider, his parents and fiancée prepare a hero’s welcome. The play was banned under the Defence Of The Realm Act (DORA), and not performed in the UK until 1926.

FRED’s artistic director Robert F. Ball says: “All three plays are fascinating and give us a real insight in to the thoughts and feelings of people who lived through the Great War.

“Especially interesting though is the previously unperformed The Munition Worker which presents a view of the war, and a woman’s contribution to the war effort, that makes us feel distinctly uncomfortable at the start of the 21st century.

“These powerful plays also demonstrate the playwrights of the war have a voice which was equal in strength to that of the more famous ‘War Poets’.”

The Friend Or Foe? triple bill can be seen at The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon from 23-26 March 2016, and @AE Harris, The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham from 31 March-2 April 2016, tickets £12. For more information, see:


FRED presents:
Friend Or Foe?
A triple bill of short one-act plays that are the authentic voice of World War One.

  • X=0 by John Drinkwater
  • Black ’Ell by Miles Malleson
  • The Munition Worker by Lady Aimée Byng Hall Scott

Directed by Peter Malin.
Produced by Robert F Ball.
Cast: Nathan Blyth, Emmeline Braefield, Mollie Fyfe Taylor, Charlie Ives, James Parsons, Peter M. Smith, and Barbara Treen.
In association with University Of Birmingham Cadbury Research Library.

Wednesday 23 to Saturday 26 March 2016
The Bear Pit Theatre, Rother Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon CV37 6LU
Wed-Fri 7.30pm, Sat 2pm & 7.30pm
Tickets £12 (£10 conc)
Ticket Hotline: 01789 403416 (Mon-Sat 10am-6pm)
In person at: Royal Shakespeare Theatre (Mon-Sun from 10am)
Ticketing services are provided by the RSC

Tuesday 29 & Wednesday 30 March 2016
The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, Marylebone London NW8 8EH
Tue 7.30pm, Wed 2pm & 7.30pm
Tickets £12 (£10 conc)
Box Office: 020 7258 2925 (open Mon-Fri 10.30am-6pm, Sat noon-6pm)

Thursday 31 March to Saturday 2 April 2016
@AE Harris, 110 Northwood Street, Birmingham B3 1SZ
Thu-Sat 7.30pm & Sat 2pm
Tickets £12
In advance from 
or tel. 0845 680 1926

Special Events

Saturday 19 March 2016
Friend Or Foe? Discovery Session
Join members of the Friend Or Foe? creative team as they discuss the challenges of presenting the three plays and the themes within. Plus a ‘scratch’ reading of John Drinkwater’s controversial X=0.
Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2ND
Admission free.
Book via:

Thursday 31 March 2016
Friend Or Foe? Q&A
Post-performance discussion with the creative team along with leading academics and researchers. Find out more about how the three plays were rediscovered, the themes within, and how they relate to other art forms of the period. Guests include Dr Andrew Maunder, University of Hertforshire; Martin Killeen, Senior Librarian, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham; Prof. Maggie Andrews, Professor of Cultural History, Institute of Humanities & Creative Arts, University of Worcestershire; and independent researcher James Kelly.
@AE Harris, 110 Northwood Street, Birmingham B3 1SZ
Tickets £12 (inc show and Q&A)
In advance from 
or tel. 0845 680 1926


Under the guidance of artistic director Robert F. Ball, FRED brings together a range of Midlands-based talent, seeking out the very best actors, designers, and writers to present high quality professional theatre – often in non-traditional theatre spaces. Fred’s mission is summed up as ‘Classic Drama – Contemporary Theatre.’

For more information on FRED and Friend Or Foe?, see:


Interviews available upon request. Limited review tickets are also available.

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