'This Evil Thing,' a one-man play about pacifism, comes to Elgin Friday

  • "This Evil Thing," a play about two men who said no to war in England during World War I, will be performed on Friday, April 13, at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin.

    "This Evil Thing," a play about two men who said no to war in England during World War I, will be performed on Friday, April 13, at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. Courtesy of Debbie Noffsinger

 
 
Updated 4/6/2018 5:22 PM

Michael Mears, an acclaimed actor from the UK, will present "This Evil Thing," a unique play about two men who said no to war in England during World War I.

The playwright and actor will be hosted jointly by Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and Brethren Volunteer Service.

 

The one-man play will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, 783 W. Highland Ave., Elgin.

"This Evil Thing" explores the courage it took to be a pacifist in World War I, one hundred years ago.

The play is the compelling, inspiring and rarely told story of the men who said no to war, and the men and women who supported them. It follows two men in particular: Bert Brocklesby, a young schoolteacher and preacher at his local Methodist church, and Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest philosophers of his time. With the advent of military conscription in 1916, their worlds are turned upside down.

In this highly original piece of storytelling, Mears portrays a gallery of characters from conscientious objectors to army generals, from prime ministers to world-famous mathematicians, using verbatim testimonies and interacting with an intricate soundscape.

Mears is on a two-month U.S. tour sponsored by the Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C.

The center is a 77-year-old peace and advocacy organization that defends the rights of conscientious objectors to war.

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Mears says he has inherited a "pacifist gene"-- but is not sure from where, as his own father and grandfather fought in the two world wars.

With military conscription in force in many countries today and prisoners of conscience still languishing in jails, the questions posed by "This Evil Thing" are as relevant and urgent as they were 100 years ago. Though the story focuses on British conscientious objectors, the same abuse and torture that they endured was mirrored across the ocean in the US, where thousands of men refused induction in World War I for reasons of conscience.

Mears has had a rich career in the UK in theatre, television, and film, including seasons with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. His film credits include "Four Weddings and a Funeral." At its world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016, "This Evil Thing" received four-star reviews and acclaim from audiences and press alike.

Visit www.hacob.org.

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