It is 1914 and the Heart of Midlothian Football Club has won 19 out of their 23 matches and is poised to become Scottish league champions. Then 13 of their players volunteer to serve in McCraeâ€™s Battalion in the Royal Scots.
The young players are followed by Hearts supporters and players and supporters of other clubs including Hibernian, Falkirk, Dunfermline and Raith Rovers, following a recruitment drive at Edinburghâ€™s Usher Hall, led by Lieut-Col. Sir George McCrae. In total, 1,400 men enlisted to serve in McCraeâ€™s Battalion, known as The Sporting Battalion.
â€˜A War of Two Halvesâ€™ is currently being performed at Tynecastle Park as part of Edinburghâ€™s Festival Fringe. It is an immersive, intimate journey with different scenes set throughout the football ground led by the players/soldiers. The ground is used imaginatively â€“ thereâ€™s even a re-creation of a trench. But ultimately this is much more than just a tour of the stadium.
The â€˜two halvesâ€™ become evident as the play unfolds; the first half focussing on the footballers at the height of their sporting prowess and the second half on their experience of fighting together on the battlefields of France.
This is a tale of friendship and football and itâ€™s not just a show for Hearts supporters as it brings to life real events in a very moving and evocative dramatization. It is professionally acted from an excellent script and as a member of the audience you are emotionally invested in the playersâ€™ fate. Although specific to McCraeâ€™s Battalion, the story of the Palsâ€™ regiments resonated throughout the United Kingdom at the time. Topical too, as 2018 marks 100 years since the signing of the Armistice. The play is a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate price for their country.
Several performances each day at Tynecastle Park until Sunday 19th August.
Details and tickets from www.tickets.edfringe.com