Old soldier confronts the past in poignant play

Jill Hucklesby
Jill Hucklesby

A World War Two photograph, found in an attic, has inspired a new production that will premiere at Brighton Festival Fringe.

The play Monte Cassino Morning is being launched by Brighton writer/producer and award-winning teen author Jill Hucklesby, with the help of artistic director of Otherplace Productions, Nicola Haydn, who was quick to invite the show to premiere at one of her venues in the city.

As Jill explains: “The photo is of my uncle, Captain Bruce Gilliam, at his marriage to nurse, Dorothy Price on May 10 1944, near enemy lines, Cassino, Italy.

“Two days later, he was killed, aged 23. Just one tragic story among so many from the war.”

Jill’s play focuses on the love affair between a soldier and the nurse who saves him during the Italian Campaign of 1944.

Inspired by the photo, the idea took root at the moment she visited the Allied cemetery at Cassino.

“It was an overwhelming experience,” says 53-year-old Jill, “not just the emotion of locating my uncle’s grave, but standing on the site of one of the fiercest campaigns of the Second World War – a campaign that claimed his life. The beating heart of a soldier’s story began at that moment. And in my play, an old soldier is finally confronting the past and finding the only road home leads back to Monte Cassino.”

Nicola, an actor and teacher, launched Otherplace Productions ten years ago, with a vision to keep new and challenging theatre alive in the town.

Several Best Venue awards later, the not-for-profit company is now presenting 20 per cent of all Brighton Festival Fringe shows this year.

Monte Cassino Morning opens on May 1 and stars former RSC actor David Fielder and West End performer and TV actor Nicky Croydon Bond, who is also associate producer for the show. Chris Bond directs.

All the team have links with Brighton and were either born in Brighton or are/were resident in the city.

More details are available at www.jillhucklesbyproductions.co.uk.

The show runs until Tuesday, May 5 (five nights, at 6.30pm from May 1-4 and 7.30pm on May 5).