FROM Wednesday until the end of the month, the newly redeveloped Perth Theatre will present The 306: Dusk, a new piece of musical theatre exploring what the First World War means to people today.

Set just a few weeks into the future – November 11, Armistice Day 2018 – the play sees a pregnant teacher go AWOL from a school trip to the Somme. In a forrest inspired by Delville Woods, one of the First World War’s bloodiest battlefields, she is joined by an injured veteran of the Iraq war and a blindfolded soldier who has just woken up after a 100 years.

He is Louis Harris, a private executed in Locquignol, northern France, just before 6.30am on November 7, 1918, after being court-martialled for desertion and cowardice. Minutes before at nearby St Python, Private Ernest Jackson had also faced the firing squad. Shot just days before the Armistice, the pair were the last British soldiers shot for military offences in the First World War.

Some 304 others were executed, many of whom, like Harris and Jackson, were suffering from shellshock. In 2006, then defence secretary Des Browne announced the pardoning of the 306, who are the inspiration of the play, a collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland, Perth Theatre and 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme marking the centenary of the First World War.

Whereas the first part, 2016’s 306: Dawn, told the story of three soldiers condemned during the Battle of the Somme, 306: Day the following year gave voice to the women and families left behind on the home front. 306: Dusk sees the project’s collaborators, playwright Oliver Emanuel and composer Gareth Williams, being joined by director Wils Wilson for a show featuring actors Sarah Kameela Impey, Ryan Fletcher and Danny Hughes, as well as a group of classical musicians.

The show will draw upon real stories both past and present, says Emanuel, who speaks with The National during a break from rehearsals.

“It’s a kind of contemporary ghost story,” he says. “These three are all there in the wood for different reasons and you find out how they are all connected. The idea of three characters lost in a wood is a kind of theatrical trope from Shakespeare, and also in northern France and in Belgium you have all these beautifully kept, very moving little cemeteries just on the edge of a field, at the side of a road, in a wood.”

He continues: “What’s interesting about the First World War is that they buried the men where they fell. So these memorials are exactly where it happened.”

Emanuel visited the grave of Harris after piecing together what little information remains about him. Many official records about the 306 were destroyed, and back home their bereaved families often had to change their name and leave their communities.

“The 306 weren’t just executed, they were erased from history in many cases,” says Emmanuel. “Some people never spoke about it. So while I am cautious about saying that these stories are based on real life, because of what little information there is, they are to a certain extent. I’m jumping around a bit from fact to fiction and in some ways, trying to give people a voice, people who have been removed, erased from history.”

Emmanuel first began work on the 306 trilogy with Williams back in 2012. The pair quickly addressed the subject on how they think they would have behaved in a similar situation to the men a century ago.

“Nowadays I don’t think people would have blindly walked over the top to their death,” Emmanuel says. “I think there would be more questions, a bigger conversation. At that time things were more about following orders – the class system was rigidly in place.” Things were different in the First World War, a conflict the horrors of which have been relayed to generations through the words of the likes of Wilfred Owen and his mentor Siegfried Sassoon. Both poets were treated for shellshock and acute anxiety, symptoms of what we would now describe as post-traumatic stress.

“If they weren’t officers, they would have been shot for behaving the way they did,” says Emmanuel. “No officers were executed. The 306 were exclusively men of the working class. It was a class-based system as much as it was anything else.”

Emmanuel says he is motivated as a writer by questions which are important to him.

“I write because I want to know what I really think about something,” he says. “I start with the questions. My question for this trilogy was what the First World War means to us today, why we should remember and why our children should remember.”

What a culture remembers is always shifting with the values and norms of the day. At a recent event with Sebastian Faulks, the author said that when it came to researching his celebrated 1993 war saga Birdsong, the First World War wasn’t a subject which sparked much interest.

“The Vietnam War had turned people against war,” says Emmanuel.

“Then, the British Legion struggled to sell their poppies. That has changed now.”

He adds: “What we remember and why is partly a question of who or what Britain is, and how much the First World War contains a part of that national myth.”

Oct 10 to Oct 27, Perth Theatre, various times, £11 to £15, £10 to £12 conc. Tel: 01738 621 031.,, #The306