Fringe Box



Review: Blue Remembered Hills – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 22 May, 2013
Updated on: 22 May, 2013

By Amy Yorston

David Nellist as Willie, Blue Remembered Hills

David Nellist as Willie, Blue Remembered Hills

Memories of the Second World War are fading from living memory as the generation that experienced that conflict gets older and passes away but this week’s play at the Yvonne Arnaud is likely to rekindle memories and tell current generations something of that time.

Originally written in 1979 for the BBC as part of their Play in A Day series, Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills is now staple fare for secondary school drama students and the amateur festival circuit.

Running at just under an hour the short play follows the adventures of a group of seven-year-olds during a summer afternoon in 1943. The script unflinchingly juxtaposes moments of innocence and cruelty accurately portraying the nature of children at play as they negotiate their relationships and discover allegiances.

The poignancy and strength of the show lies in the successful casting of adult actors. Northern Stage have brought together a talented ensemble who all capture the mannerisms of children without performing a parody and who bring great energy to the stage and to the production.

Simply set with a grey grassy bank, large cyclorama and wooden ladders the sense of the outdoors is strong. Projections of trees aid the action as the children run joyously deeper into the woods but the prevailing grey theme hints at the austerity of the time and the harshness of their upbringing.

With tight direction from Psyche Stott and believable fight choreography by Paul Benzing every inch of the stage is used and the bank gets rolled down, crawled up and jumped all over.

David Nellist Phil Cheadle Chris Price and James Bolt

David Nellist, Phil Cheadle, Chris Price and James Bolt

Despite the darker themes that are evident in the interactions of the characters (and their final group decision) there is plenty of humour in this piece, particularly in the scenes in which they play ‘house’ and replicate the behaviour of their parents.

Aside from the references to the war and excitement over The Beano these moments still feel fresh and relevant which is perhaps why the play remains a favourite for so many people.

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