The Fight in the Dog
was written by Rib Davis
directed by Brian Woolland
produced by Playing for Time theatre company
presented at HMP Winchester, April / May 2014
with a cast of male prisoners and students from the University of Winchester
About the play
The Fight in the Dog is set during the First World War and focuses on the Barrett family. Bertrand is a Methodist minister who has brought up his children to believe that killing is wrong, whatever the circumstances. When war is declared, each of the male children in the family struggles with his conscience, wrestling with his upbringing, his morality and his sense of duty to his country. Albert joins the Ambulance Corps, Stanley and Cedric join up, while George chooses to become a conscientious objector.
The popular histories of the first world war make little mention of conscientious objectors (or ‘Conchies’ or ‘CO’s’, as they were known at the time). Whilst some may well have been cowards (as they were usually portrayed), many did what they did out of deeply held beliefs. As The Fight in the Dog makes clear, they suffered greatly for their principles. They were scorned, abused and vilified – in many cases by their own families and by those they had thought of as their loved ones.
The play, which has been meticulously research by the playwright Rib Davis, explores the circumstances, the context and philosophy that led to men becoming conscientious objectors, and the consequences of their actions: many were conscripted into the Non Combatant Corps, where they could be court martialed and shot if they disobeyed orders; for some, however, the death sentence was commuted to ten years penal servitude. Many conscientious objectors were held in Winchester Prison.