The End of Reason Part 3: Over The Top

Part 3 of 'The End of Reason' toured in the autumn of 2016 and was called 'Over the Top', focusing on the role of women in VAD hospitals and the mass slaughter from the Battle of the Somme. More specifically the play told the story of Kitty, a young Irish scullery maid who trains as a nurse and Jimmy, a delivery boy who joins the British Army. Kitty is mentored by a Sister at a field hospital near the Somme and experiences the awful casualties of mechanised warfare. Jimmy is blinded and dies, and eventually Kitty is sent back to England to become a Sister at a VAD hospital for convalescing servicemen.
The image for 'Over The Top' by designer Ceri Townsend used a body density map from the area around the Somme. The map was produced by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Messer the Assistant Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries in France, who recorded the crosses of the fallen on the battlefield and register their location, and then to re-inter the bodies together in larger cemeteries.  The largest squares you see in the grid are 1000 yards by 1000 yards. The smallest squares are around 83 yards by 83 yards. The blue numbers indicate the soldiers killed so even in the smaller squares there were up to 1000 casualties. This is hard to imagine but perhaps not surprising when you consider that the British Army lost over 57,000 men on the first day of the battle. The floor cloth became a constant reminder of the mechanised slaughter of the Somme, and formed an important part of the Theatre in Education programme. It was a brave decision for the set which worked very well functionally and aesthetically.
Matt Hinks