Woeful Second World War
3 October 2009 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews The sixth in Birmingham Stage Company's adaptations of the Terry Deary Horrible Histories series sees us in the early years of the Second World War. In Phil Clark's production the emphasis is placed on two children, evacuated, distinctly against their own wishes, to the Welsh countryside. Although they don't know it, this means that they escape the notorious 1940 bombing raid which razed the city.
As always, the visual aspects of the production make a strong impact, abetted by some spectacular 3D effects devised by Amazing Interactives. These include a less-than-friendly cow, a ferocious guard dog and – best of all – the bombing raid on Coventry and its aftermath, with fires flickering amid the rubble and wounded church spires inviting a shower of Flanders poppies. It's a climax to move hearts and invite minds to think about both the causes and the effects of conflict.
Jacqueline Trousdale's designs bring us the exterior and interior of the Medwell home, the Turner shop and home, railway stations, a train journey, village streets, farm buildings and a butcher's van braving the blackout in pursuit of black-market meat. The storyline doesn't preach about such things and the predominantly young audience takes them as normal behaviour in such circumstances. The story is carried through the interaction of Sally and Alf with the adults they encounter, including a fussy headmistress and an injured RAF officer, and there are some quite lengthy exchanges. It's a merit of the writing (by Clark and Mark Williams) that these were listened to intently. The songs are all of the period with opportunities for the audience to join in and Tom Lishman's sound systems has some good effects, among them the wireless sets, telephone coin-boxes and whistling kettles (remember those, anyone?).
Four actors play all the parts with
Matthew Schmolle entirely credible as young Alf, football-mad and itching to leave school and work in his father's butcher's shop. Perry Lambert has a nice lines in put-downs as Sally, a girl with sense and a fair idea of what really matters in life. Laura Dalgleish is Mrs Medwell, worrying about her husband away on active service and her daughter's future as the first bombs fall, and the disagreeable farmer whi sees an evacuee equally as extra cash and unpaid labour.
Ciaran McConville obviously enjoys the roles of wheeler-dealer Tommy Turner, looking to help out his regular customers as well as turn a little extra profit, the Welsh clergyman and the pilot who escaped a PoW camp only to drip over an oil drum. It may be called horrible history – and perhaps there are some people (young and old) who find history something to be avoided. But it's also very fine theatre, and that's something to celebrate. - by Anne Morley-Priestman Related Content
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK Infographic When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t... Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d... Brief Encounter with ... The Kite Runner's Ben Turner Ben Turner stars in the stage version of the bestselling book The Kite Runner, which runs at Liverpo... Titus Andronicus (RSC) This latest production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to borrow from football punditry, is a p... Michael Coveney: Charity begins at home with John Lyon's I've occasionally written about the work of the John Lyon's Charity, for whom I'm an adviser, and wh... : Britain's outdoor theatres Take Five With half-term approaching, the weather (hopefully) set to improve for the bank holiday weekend and ... West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar... : 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders' Robert Sean Leonard Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K... X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L... Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...