WOODBINE Willie: Poet and Padre details the incredible life of the Worcester Vicar who volunteered as a chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War.
Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, the Vicar of St Paul’s Church, was known as Woodbine Willie because he would hand out Woodbine cigarettes to the soldiers, along with words of comfort.
With lots of laughs and a few tears along the way, this superb theatrical production shows the vital role he played on the battlefields of Belgium, combing theatre, poetry and live music to bring one man’s incredible life to the stage.
Born in Leeds in 1883, Kennedy was the seventh of nine children born to Jeanette Anketell and William Studdert Kennedy, a vicar in Leeds. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained a degree in classics and divinity in 1904.
After a year’s training, he became a curate in Rugby and then, in 1914, the vicar of St Paul’s, Worcester. However, it was his bravery on the Western Front for which he became so well known, and which endeared him to so many.
He won the Military Cross for his reckless courage after running into no man’s land to help wounded soldiers during the battle of Messines Ridge.
He was also a published poet, and wrote a number of poems about his experiences on the Western Front, which appeared in two books – Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and More Rough Rhymes (1919). His work has lived on to become an important historical source and an insight into the horrors of the war.
Woodbine Willie: Poet & Padre will be at The Swan Theatre on Friday (July 8) at 7.30pm and Saturday (July 9) at 3pm.
Tickets are £14 (Concessions £12), call the Box Office on 01905 611427 or visit www.theswantheatre.co.uk