Directed by Psyche Stott
Pros: The cast give good performances as seven year old children. A lot of effort has gone into the research of children’s lives of the war era. The post show Q&A with the cast was also interesting.
Cons: The delivery is too quick, homogenous and relentlessly shouty. The plot is sparse and at 45 minutes long, you don’t get a lot of entertainment for your ticket price.
Our Verdict: A nostalgic piece which clearly appealed to the older members of the audience. There are relevant themes around human nature and war but I felt there was not enough in it to really recommend it.
It’s the time of the World War II and we meet a group of seven year olds playing in the fields and woods near their homes. They run, they play, they tease each other, they kill a squirrel, they get scared, they fight or talk about fighting or threaten to fight. They are mostly cruel and violent and this leads to a tragedy. The plot is crafted to reflect the wider setting of the war going on beyond the reaches of their world: in fields across the channel their fathers, brothers and boys not much older than them are killing each other for Queen and country. The connection is definitely there and I’m sure it strikes a chord amongst the generation that can remember such a time. Unfortunately, it just didn’t reach me. Perhaps as a mother of three children older than seven, I have rose-tinted glasses on and can’t relate to the cruelty and violence of this bygone era.
The cast were wonderfully energetic and have clearly done a lot of research around the behaviour, mannerisms and attitudes of seven year old children. They each bring warmth and credibility to what are essentially stereotypes (a thug, a clever one, a social outcast, a bullied one, a weak one, a pretty girl and her wannabe best friend) and I felt I may have empathised and cared for the children had they not been so incredibly horrible to each other. Each actor seemed to capture the essence of their role and understand the nuances of their character. It is a strong, commendable, and clearly talented cast and I found their performances generally enjoyable.
However, the drama was delivered too quickly – the energy sustained became homogenous and it lacked variation in tone. The children seemed to speak in the same shouty voices whether they were scared, happy or being cruel and violent. It seemed like the characters were racing through all of the events they were experiencing; there were few pauses and very little down time even when it felt appropriate. At 45 minutes the play is short and feels truncated which, whilst intentional, left me feeling cheated of a continuing story.
The post show chat with the cast was interesting and shed some light on the meaning and issues that the play was written to highlight. On discussion it appears a worthy script, but I still feel it lacks relevance. That said, there were comments from older members of the audience stating that it reflected their memories of life during those times. So I think this play strikes a chord with a certain age group but has lost its appeal to a younger, modern audience. If Blue Remembered Hills represents childhood in wartimes, I sincerely hope those days are well and truly gone!
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Blue Remembered Hills runs at Watford Palace Theatre until 1 June 2013 and then at other venues across the country until 29 June 2013. For more information please visit http://blueremembered.co.uk/tour/.