Wartime tale a striking challenge for actors at Kenilworth theatre

THE joys and private tragedies of seven children during the Second World War are brought to life in a comedy play at the Talisman Theatre in Kenilworth this week.

Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, which was originally written as a television play, reflects on the human capability for brutality, especially in children – and poses a striking challenge for actors, as they are all required to be adults playing seven-year-olds.

Potter’s reasoning is that although the play is about childhood, the themes of friendship, betrayal and happiness are too easily lost when played by children – indeed, much of the play’s foreword is about this casting choice.

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The simplicity of the bucolic setting and the disappearance of adults into the forces – or ‘missing in action’ for one of the fathers – further emphasise that the piece is all about what the children are doing and feeling, which in turn has to be brought out by the players in any successful production.

Easy-going Willie (John Francis), bully Peter (Michael Barker), forthright John (Rod Wilkinson) and stammering Raymond (Des McCann) meet while hunting a squirrel.

They are joined by pretty Angela (Julie-Ann Dean) and the robust Audrey (Chris Ives) who have left Donald (Peter Gillam) sobbing and heart-broken in an old barn.

The afternoon builds as the boys vie for supremacy and the girls manipulate the boys for their own ends.

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As the childrens’ games become more and more fraught, the action moves from acute, observational comedy on to its tragic climax.

Directed by Steve Smith, the play’s set has been designed by June Malcolm, with Ian Roberts on lighting, Dik Thacker on sound, Roz Grant providing costumes and Maggie Crooke the props.

The show’s stage manager is June Bewick and performances take place at the theatre in Barrow Road from today (Monday) until Saturday March 10 at 7.30pm each evening.

Tickets cost £6 to £8.50. Call 856548.