Emma Reeves' adaptation of the popular Nina Bawden novel seems unsure whether it's for adults or children
19 May 2014
Emma Reeves' stage adaptation of Carrie's War, the best-selling children's book by Nina Bawden, tells the story of siblings who are evacuated to the county during WWII and the spooky turn of events that haunts them through to adulthood.
This show deals with the issues that arose on the home-front and gives a child's perspective of evacuation. Amy Hamlen plays both the past and present version of Carrie, acting as the show's narrator.
As the older version she seems quite stiff and stilted, but during the main body of the piece her physicality is childlike and she conveys the stubborn spirit Carrie is known for.
Andy Owens as Nick races about the stage with all the energy of a four-week old puppy and together the pair have a good amount of sibling familiarity.
As their evacuation foster-parent Mr Evans, John Griffiths growls and barks creating a ferocious authority figure that instils fear into the children.
Griffiths deftly builds the character into more than just an "evil old man", allowing the audience to remember how terrifying those sorts of figures can be when you're a child. Nigel Munson handles the role of the disabled character of Mr Johnny with sensitivity and grace, giving a fine performance in a difficult role.
The set is quite frankly dull and unimaginative; a blank two-tiered setting that relies on the actors to bring items of furniture clunkily onto the set to indicate a change in location. This play is not without its challenges regarding setting, but more could have been done to capture the audience's attention.
Sarah Sage's lighting design and Darren Street's sound design do an adequate job of creating a sense of space, and their collaboration to create the haunted Druid's Bottom plays upon the audience's senses to form an eerie atmosphere.
However, the play itself seems confusing in that it's not sure if it's a show for adults or children. The under-13s in the audience become restless throughout the lengthy dialogue and their concentration drifts during the show, while adults enjoy reminiscing about the reading the book as a child or even their own experiences with evacuation.
The subtle droplets of home-front history that flows throughout the book are lost on stage, making the plot seem small and insignificant compared to other representations of war. This is real shame as although it is an enjoyable enough production, it is unlikely to be the best piece of war-based theatre that will be produced this year.