Consider these lilies of the field – young ladies (it comes as a shock to realise they could be teenagers) who toil all day long, every day, and have so many tales to spin, as much poignant as comical. Based on Women’s Land Army reminiscences, it’s more documentary than play, occasionally piecemeal, even hesitant and confusing. However, given the mass of material, basically a lot of lists, it is coaxed into a fascinating show as they work their way through the war years, simultaneously with one year’s highs and lows (the latter providing some pretty gruesome nitty gritty, including abuse), hard labour right through to hard partying and madcap escapades.
Framed by Churchill’s funeral in the 1960s, with a backdrop evoking vast meadows, two huge wooden walls create the sense of farms in general, and a barn in particular. The four heroines (which undoubtedly they all were) act out individual histories as well as joining together for scenes of camaraderie, mime and song. It’s somewhat stereotypical: Jo Castleton as Poppy, feisty posh girl, and earthy Cockney Peggy (Kali Peacock) provide much of the humour, with jolly practical Vera (Sioned Jones) and Dorothy Lawrence as Margie, the innocent waif. But the spectrum is covered with their coming from all walks of life, and they’re pretty nifty at portraying all trades, from surly farmers to soulful Italian prisoners of war.
It is a tribute to the cast that they do a grand job in bringing the show to life. History these days is sadly under-rated, as indeed was the WLA until comparatively recently, but this will enthral those who have their own stories to tell, several of whom quietly joined in with the songs. It should also interest, educate and entertain the ones who have not had the opportunity to learn about the 1940s.
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