Having been one of the lucky few awarded a slice of the Arts Council pie, BishBashBosh are putting it to admirable use, bringing to life a piece of peculiarly Cornish – yet entirely British – history.
Surfing Tommies, a both comedic and poignant snapshot of WWI, packs in the usual motifs of a war tale: camaraderie, futility, love, home and abroad, life and death. Cutting between an abandoned mine in present day Perranporth, its heyday of 1914 and the front line trenches, the play rolls along apace, its gobbets of humorous scenes acted with glee by the small and accomplished cast. Though the story is nothing new - a small mining community altered forever by war – it is tenderly told here, filled with lush Cornwall dialect and deliciously accented.
Toby Nicholas, Trevor Cuthbertson and Dean Nolan are excellent as the three miners-come-soldiers who swap mining the tin of Cornwall for exploding the clay of Flanders. Dean Nolan’s presence fills the stage and commands attention as Tamblyn. Blithe and brash he may be, but he is nonetheless a loveable rogue and a grand foil for Toby Nicholas’ gentle and sweetly played John Henry Pascoe.
Trevor Cuthbertson is suitably commanding as Cap’n Tresawna and Ed Williams does a brilliant job of switching up his accents to step between South African soldier and very English reporter. Molly Weaver copes admirably with no less than five female characters, stepping between them with ease. Though it jars a little for the same person to play both mother and girlfriend of John Henry, a good dash of physical flair in the execution from Weaver pacifies this a little.
There are very few gripes to be had with Surfing Tommies. Occasional audience interaction turns a little pantomime-ish, scene changes were occasionally too long and clunky, and the sudden introduction of a non-linear structure in Act two doesn’t particularly add much to the plot. But these are entirely minor detractors and ones the charm of the cast successfully negate.
Despite being billed as a ‘poignant tale of war... ultimately one of redemption and hope’ it’s possible the ending becomes a little too sentimental, and does indeed beg the question of just how futile or otherwise a modern posthumous memorial is. Can it heal any wounds of the past if those directly involved aren’t there to witness it? Still. That is by the by, and Surfing Tommies continues on a national tour throughout July.