From out of World War Two came a fund of stories of love and loss, humour and horror, death and destruction. Every man and woman who lived during the Blitz had a tale to tell and none more so than the ordinary folks of Liverpool who suffered the war more than most. It is these tales that Jo Mac has brought together in Red Skies a play that celebrates the spirit of a community, remembers the debt we owe to those people and never lets us forget the cost and horror of war.
Although it has little new to say this is a play with its heart in the right place with moments that should make you laugh out loud before engulfing you in tears.
But it is in the telling of these tales that the show falters. It starts promisingly enough with the prelude of wartime songs; the simple setting of corrugated iron, sand bags and wartime posters conveys the atmosphere and some chat with the audience suggests that we may all be in this together. However after this first bit of banter the idea is abandoned. The numerous short scenes come and go and too many are ponderously played with long pauses between speeches and at times voices drifting into inaudibility.
There is a politeness in the playing and direction as each character waits for the next person to speak and consequently the pace never revs up as it should. Also there are some production touches such as moving the table a few inches to denote change of location and the ‘ghostly family’ appearing that don’t come off.
Marc Morrison as Joey and Angela Simms as Molly inject life into their roles and Maggie Lynch as Mary is every inch the resilient matriarch. Bob Lawson as Tom brings real grief to close the first half and the final moments although predictable still have power and some style to end the production.
This is a play with something going for it but it needs sharper direction, more pace, more projection and more attack. The show then would really reach out to us to make us laugh and touch our hearts.
Perhaps add a singalong and then this show could tour as a piece of community theatre for years.
- Richard Woodward