THIS is the swansong for Birdsong, whose latest tour marks the centenary of the end of The Great War.

The Original Theatre Company production previously played York Theatre Royal in 2014, 100 years on from the war's outset, but has anything changed for the better in the intervening four years?

At its core, Sebastian Faulks's story is a lament to the degradation of war; so many soldiers blasted to bits on the Western Front in France as the birds continue their singing amid the "utter madness" of man's behaviour towards his fellow man at the bloody Somme. Alas, the appalling scars of Syria; terrorist suicide bombers; the posturing of the USA and North Korea; the tit-for-tat spat between Russia and Britain; the rising tide of intolerance and division; each point to the "utter madness" being all too alive and kicking. History repeating itself; lessons never learned.

York Press:

A scene from Alastair Whatley and Charlotte Peters' production of Birdsong. Picture: Jack Ladenburg

The First World War buries its way into our conscience like no other war, be it in the poetry of Sassoon and Owen, the novels of Faulks and Pat Barker, or myriad films and plays. War, what is it good for, we ponder again and again.

Faulks had once questioned Rachel Wagstaff's desire to transfer Birdsong from page to stage – "Why try to make a sculpture out of a painting?", he asked – but her present version meets his approval with its structure of memories being conjured as and when young officer Stephen Wraysford is haunted by his past.

Writer Wagstaff and director Alastair Whatley give the story an overlapping structure that begins in the trenches as the men under the command of Wraysford (Tom Kay) must make their way through the sprawling tunnels beneath the fields of France.

A blast that sends him to a hospital bed will transport Wraysford via the first of a series of juddering balletic movements back to pre-war France, where he embarked on a passionate, dangerous liaison with Isabelle (Madeleine Knight), the love-starved, abused second wife of Rene Azaire (Martin Carroll). The play then switches back and forth between Wraysford's past and present, filling in the jigsaw puzzle of his sometimes awkward demeanour.

York Press:

Tom Kay's Stephen Wraysford and Madeleine Knight's Isabelle Azaire in Birdsong. Picture: Jack Ladenburg

Victoria Spearing's set has the permanent shadow of the Somme's battlefield, trenches and tunnels beneath a sky beyond reach as the war staggers from 1916 to 1918. In front, the Azaire household and the Amiens community in 1910 is evoked with swift changes of scenery and a revolving door.

Kay's educated, initially buttoned-up Wraysford is courageous in the field yet consumed by a Sassoon-like anger at the futility of war, while his frustration at his foiled love for Knight's beautiful, damaged Isabelle gnaws away at him.

Wraysford is something of a queer fish, not a man ever at ease with himself, whereas the everyman figure of the dutiful, unbending Jack Firebrace (the outstanding Tim Treloar) receives the biggest cheer at the finale, in gratitude for service given.

Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong, Birdsong Productions/The Original Theatre Company, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, 7.30pm nightly plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568 or at