Theatre review: Between the Crosses

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Edgar Huggins always wanted to leave Britain and become a rancher in Australia. Born at the end of the 19th century, he did end up working with horses and leaving the country, although this County Durham farm worker and pit horseman never did make it as far as Australia.

Army @ the Fringe in association with Summerhall (Venue 210)

***

Instead, the Territorial Army volunteer was drafted into the ranks of soldiers who fought in the trenches of the First World War, where he was made groom to the captain of his regiment, and later a horseback messenger.

Edgar’s story is told by his great-nephew Will Huggins in a one-man storytelling presentation told with energy and breathless involvement, occasionally slipping into a kind of loose dialogue between both men, with Will appearing in the form of recorded reminiscences.

Under the direction of Dan Llyweln-Williams, Will interprets his great-uncle’s experiences on the front at Ypres with impassioned conviction, describing cases of “operational exhaustion” (shell-shock, in other words) and an unpleasant defence against chlorine gas (“I don’t suppose tying a piss-soaked rag round your face is quite the morale booster you need before you go into battle”).

Yet he also reads between the words and uncovers the post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt of the men who came home from this horror a century ago.

Until 16 August. Today 3:30pm.