Play written by Goldsmiths historian and Professor in Media & Communications to take place in Deptford Town Hall.
The trials of Deptford’s conscientious objectors are to be re-enacted in a play at Goldsmiths, University of London on 18, 19 and 20 May.
‘Devils on Horseback’, written by Goldsmiths Historian Professor Tim Crook, brings to life the colourful stories of those who said no and those who tried them – all set in the chamber where their trials took place in Deptford Town Hall in 1917.
No account of the trials survives, but they have been dramatised based on research by Goldsmiths historians.
The play centres on a number of conscientious objectors, including Henry Rivett Albrow who worked as a post office sorting clerk in Brockley.
In the play, he argues his position on the grounds of socialism and moralism, condemning Deptford Council’s militarist culture as anti-democratic and ungodly. He claims ‘every man is my brother…I believe in the socialist Jesus Christ and I cannot connect myself in any way with war’.
Others depicted in the play include the Reverend Edward Noel Mellish VC who had previously won the Victoria Cross for rescuing 22 soldiers from artillery fire at St Eloi in 1916, and the fictional Harry Heskett, a painter and decorator who didn’t want to ‘waste my life at war while the profiteers get richer and fatter’.
William Wayland, who was Mayor of Deptford at the time of the trials and became a dominant Conservative politician later in his career, is also represented in the play.
A full-blooded militarist, Wayland raised one of the highest numbers of recruits of any urban borough in the Great War, with Deptford volunteers forming four artillery brigades and an ammunition column.
In the play, Wayland is the belligerent Chairman of the Military Tribunal, and has a confrontational relationship with others on the panel.
One of whom is a representation of suffragist Beatrice Drapper, who was a prominent Labour Party activist and went on to become Deptford’s first female Mayor in 1927.
Throughout the play, she proves herself to be more than a match for the men on the panel, in spite of their misogyny.
The dramatisation of the trials reveals striking new details that paint a vivid picture of local life during one of the most turbulent periods in world history.
Tickets for the play are £10 and can be purchased here: http://explore.gold/devils-on-horseback
Performance times are as follows:
Thursday 18 May: 7-9pm
Friday 19 May: 7-9pm
Saturday 20 May: 230-4pm and 7-9pm
All proceeds from the play will go to Goldsmiths’ Jay Merriman Mukoro Scholarship, which is available to help fund a place on the MA Radio programme at the University.