“…a compelling blend of music-theatre and drama-documentary.”
Peter Reed, Opera magazine, July 2012
“Iain Burnside is best known as a pianist, but in A Soldier and a Maker he shows himself to be a playwright of surprising technical skill […]. With its varied pace, confident line of action and recourse to comic interludes, Burnside’s vivid narrative has a freedom that transcends the normal confines of verbatim theatre. It is extraordinarily moving.
[…] a production that sweeps the audience towards the terrible desolation of its conclusion, a sadness rendered all the more poignant by the two-hour musical celebration that precedes it.”
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage, 22 April 2012
“Burnside interweaves [Ivor Gurney’s] bleak biography with some of Gurney’s huge output of music and poetry, though most of it is still unpublished. There is some pragmatic telescoping of events […] but otherwise the play sticks closely to the documented facts of Gurney’s life. The pacing is a little uneven, but his remorseless mental disintegration is poignantly caught. His meeting with Helen Thomas, widow of the poet Edward Thomas […] is beautifully done.
Andrew Clements, guardian.co.uk, 22 April 2012
“Iain Burnside’s A Soldier and a Maker (the ‘Maker’ was Gurney‘s choice of word for his role as a poet and composer) – an ingenious combination of play, music-theatre and staged drama-documentary – deals fully with the tragedy of Gurney’s life. … If anything, the skill with which Burnside has introduced this levelling reality makes Gurney’s story even more moving, and parallel to the sequence of his life’s events is the process by which Gurney’s art has survived him, narrated with extraordinary effectiveness by his sister Winifred.
[The] way in which Burnside lightly evoked any number of elements in Gurney’s life – the type of artist he was, his peers, the uneasy, post-Victorian straining at the emotional seams – is powerfully effective. And, in a very English, ‘blue-remembered’ context of lost this and that, you had a permanent lump in the throat that teetered on the brink of full-scale emotional incontinence. The way the text and Gurney’s songs flowed unselfconsciously in and out of each other was bad enough, the folding in of the songs ‘I’m homesick for my hills’ and ‘This is a sacred city’ loosened the floodgates even more, but there is one specific event, near the end, that was quietly tender and seriously tear-jerking. Judge for yourself.
The simple, haunting designs and seamless direction of a large, multi-tasking cast set the seal on this moving portrait of a very English artist. If you love life, you’ll love this. Highly recommended.”
Peter Reed, classicalsource.com, 20 April 2012