‘Cosmo’s War’ performed at St Michael & All Angels for Remembrance Day

Image above: Cosmo Clark, St Michael & All Angels’ 2021 Remembrance service 

Play based on the personal letters of a WW1 soldier from Bedford Park 

St Michael & All Angels Church will mark Remembrance Day with a reading of Cosmo’s War, a play based on the letters of the artist Cosmo Clark, sent to and from his family at 44 Rusthall Avenue, Bedford Park in Chiswick during the First World War.

Cosmo Clark, who volunteered for active service at the age of 17, won the Military Cross and so did his brother Percy. He documented his experiences in drawings and letters from the front and later became a well-known artist. His work is held in a range of collections including the Government Art Collection and the Imperial War Museum.

The play was originally performed in 2018 as a rehearsed reading at Christ Church, East Sheen. It was due to be performed at St Michael & All Angels in November 2020 but the church was closed because of COVID.

The staged reading, with music and images, will take place at 7.30pm on Friday 11 November in St Michael & All Angels Church. Refreshments will be on sale from 7.00pm, as well as during the interval. There will also be a collection for the charity Combat Stress, which supports veterans.

Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for under-20s. Buy tickets by clicking here.

Image above: The Great Sacrifice by James Clark, original painting (L) and reproduced as a stained glass window in the church of St Mary Magdalene, Enfield (R). Image of the painting supplied by Hartlepool Art Gallery; photograph of the window by John Salmon, courtesy of The Victorian Web 

Cosmo and his father produced some of the best known images of the First World War

Cosmo’s father was also a well-known artist. James Clark painted The Great Sacrifice, described as “the most popular painting of WW1”. It depicted a dead soldier in British uniform at the foot of a ghostly figure of Christ on the Cross: millions of copies were sold and it was used in stained glass windows and as a war memorial in public buildings.

Image above: James Clark’s The Salutation mural in St Michael & All Angels Church (left), from The Tin Trunk: Letters and Drawings 1914-1918 by Cosmo Clark (right)

After the war, in 1922, James Clark painted The Salutation mural which is displayed in the north aisle of St Michael & All Angels Church depicting the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. The Remembrance Day reading will mark the painting’s centenary.

Cosmo Clark’s granddaughter Annie Davis, a graphic designer, will attend the reading with her sister and other family members. She designed the book of Cosmo’s War, which will be on sale in the church. She and Bernard Adams, who wrote the script for the play, spoke about it at the Waterstones Local Authors Party in the Chiswick Book Festival.

Images above: Emma Laird Craig; Jamie White

Cast members also remember their own families’ military service

Jamie White, a student studying history at Royal Holloway College, will perform the lead role. His father and two grandfathers all served in the British Army and he was interviewed by ITV News last year after taking part in the Poppy Run for the Royal British Legion with teammates from London University’s Royal Naval Unit.

Other parts will be read by professional actors, including Emma Laird Craig, who is playing Sarah, Duchess of York, in the new season of The Crown.

Others in the cast include Edward Anderson who who has just finished in the premiere of Ashley at the Theatre at the Tabard; Freya Alderson who plays the lead in the horror film Claire, to be released in 2023; and Lauren Jones, who graduated last year from ArtsEd in Chiswick.

Edward and Emma also comes from military familes.

Image above: Father Kevin Morris

“A remarkable story of World War One”

Bernard Adams, the writer of Cosmo’s War and a former BBC producer, said:

“The play is, literally, a documentary. Every word spoken, other than by the narrator, is taken from the marvellously preserved letters the family exchanged, detailing their deeply contrasted lives.”

Father Kevin Morris, the vicar of St Michael & All Angels, commented:

“This is a remarkable story of World War One, rooted in the artistic community of Bedford Park, and powerfully told through the family’s letters. It seemed appropriate to read the play on Remembrance Day in the centenary year of The Salutation, which James Clark painted for St Michael & All Angels.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar website

See also: Bedford Park

See also: Bedford Park – the hotbed of radical free-thinkers

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.