By Jayne Williams
The First is a play based on the global events of WWI, told from the perspective of two boys from a small town in the East Midlands. The First serves as a dramatic work of fiction based on historic fact; a hook to reel in the interest and intrigue of learners aged 9+, to ignite inquisitive minds to explore their own local stories that link to the global history of WWI.
Written as a dynamic epic poem to reflect the real life encounters from the trenches, the story follows two best friends - Frederick and Jack, as they grow together, play together and enter the Great War together.
The First is a play of choices and the audience is invited to decide the fate of Jack at the end of the play.
'The connection and empathy that the children developed as a result of the play was evident from the initial performance and sessions afterwards. It was obvious that the children had developed an emotional connection with the characters and as a result, had a much greater understanding of the events that occurred in the First World War. I am sure that the resulting work in History and English at school was greatly enhanced.'
Watching this play has made the children empathise with soldiers' lives back then and has made all the facts they learnt about WWI come to life. The writing the children produced was of a high standard. They wrote diary entries, a poem and a narrative flashback story. They thoroughly enjoyed it and it really had a positive impact on their Literacy writing and History learning.
This play was commissioned by The Spark and Leicester Libraries as part of the Imaginative Spaces project. It was written by Jayne Williams, who was our Artist in Residence at Braunstone Library (The BRITE Centre) in 2014.
To commemorate the World War One centenary, Jayne wrote a one-person play inspired by local stories, gathered by the Braunstone History Group. Dramaturged and directed by Adel Al-Salloum, with actor Gary Lagden, 'The First' performed to 990 young people in Years 5 and 6, during a short tour of Leicester Libraries.