Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Taking Up Arms

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Taking Up Arms

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

The bloodied and dangerous young man with the firearm is the embodiment of George Bernard Shaw's fugitive soldier in his famous anti-war play, Arms And The Man.

According to Shaw's own description, Bluntschli "is a man of about 35, in a deplorable plight, bespattered with mud and blood and snow, his belt and the strap of his revolver-case keeping together the torn ruins of the blue tunic of a Servian artillery officer".

He certainly gives Raina - decorous picture of youth and beauty - a turn when he bursts in through her bedroom window one night, declaring: "Shhh! Don't call out or you'll be shot!" What happened next? Well, if you don't know the play you'll have to go to the Theatre Royal next week to find out.

There you will find Barnaby Kay's Bluntschli - the man with the gun - disabusing young Raina of her idealised view of war, all medals, parades and glory.

Kay, like Shaw, has a lot of connections with the North-East, and particularly with the People's Theatre, the venerable amateur playhouse in Heaton, Newcastle.

The famous playwright - socialist, pacifist, vegetarian - was a frequent visitor to the People's in its early years when it was established by members of the Fabian Society. Many of his plays were performed there in his presence.

As for Barnaby, his late father, Tynesider Richard Kay, had his first acting experiences at the People's and was at the top of his profession when he was tragically killed by a drunk driver in 1987, aged 50.

His grandfather, Arthur Kay, was once chairman of Northern Arts and artistic director of the People's where he is commemorated by a plaque. Grandmother Alison, who died in 2001 at the age of 91, was a saintly but pragmatic figure who for years ran a soup kitchen for the homeless under Newcastle's railway arches.

Barnaby Kay grew up in London but admits: "I've always felt very close to Newcastle and get very excited whenever I come up there. …

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