Children play games.
They're not always as nice or as gentle as adults expect them to be.
Dennis Potter's drama was written for the BBC's Play for
Today series in 1979 and is now on a too-short tour in a
new production for Northern Stage by Psyche Stott. It's set in
wartime countryside and concerns seven seven-year olds – two girls
and five boys.
On the surface, the
girls role-play at domesticity with a pram and a doll. The boys
scrump apples, imagine fighting the Germans or capturing an escaped
Italian PoW. They pick on one of their classmates for his stutter and
another (whose father's fate in Japanese-occupied Malaysia is
unlikely to be a happy one) for his sheer neediness. One boy is a
natural bully though, like others of his tribe, he wilts when
Murchison presents his adult cast against a symbolic back ground of
sky and hills with a ladder for a tree and Colin Grenfell's
projections shifting us from open ground to deep woodland. David
Nellist gives a full characterisation of Willie, a sort of Billy
Bunter figure who uses his wit to stave off jibes. James Bolt is
Raymond, who stutters and Christopher Price makes bully Peter truly
an uncomfortable young person to have around.
Also prone to throwing
his weight around is John ([Phil Cheadle). The two girls are bossy,
flirtatious Angela, who expects always to be queen of everybody's
castle, as Tilly Gaunt makes clear and wannabe Audrey one of life's
eternal hangers-on, well characterised by Joanna Holden. Donald
(nick-named Duck, of course) is the story's tragic centre. Adrian
Grove projects his sadness and ultimate desperation with great