It’s the summer of 1943 and seven children are playing in the Forest of Dean. It all seems nothing more than innocent fun, but their fighting and fantasies will lead them to an unforgettable and unforgivable event…
Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills was first shown in 1979 as a television play in the rolling countryside, but in Graham Hubbard’s version at the New Diorama, the scenes are far more surreal. The stage is simple, dominated by a climbing frame which is complemented by two fencing panels that move to create a bunker and barn where the children play.
The scene opens with Willie (Glen Lloyd) playing soldiers – rolling around and blasting imaginary enemies – before his friends (complete with fairly credible West Country accents) arrive. As with the TV play the cast are all adults being children and Lloyd and the other boys (Gary Roe, Mathew Foster and Paul Harnett) also capture the essence of childhood very well, with their boyish fighting and awkward childlike movements.
Meanwhile the two girls (Nellie McQuinn and Rose McPhilemy) are playing house with Donald (Christopher York). As with all girls of that age, they are trying to be more grown up than the boys, even though they are still children. As an adult this is quite difficult to capture but McQuinn and McPhilemy manage to portray this throughout, their naive flirtations giving way to childish vulnerability at various points in the play.
Acting from all the cast is strong and they are all believable as children. York, as the neglected mixed up Donald gives the strongest performance, his twisted young mind in stark contrast to the scenes where we see that he is just an innocent bullied child. His tone of voice and body language are superb and he reacts well to the taunts of the other children when we see his confused persona revert back to a cowering little boy.
The story is short, yet haunting and the ending is not at all what the audience are expecting. After a humorous and touching play about harmless summer fun, the realities of life are brought sharply into focus and these innocent childish games have severe consequences.
Surreal and powerful, Donald’s death is very moving, performed with sound and light inside the barn, as the others lean against the walls giggling at their joke. But after it’s too late, the children are suddenly grown up – their accidental guilt apparent and their fun and games over. The cast then step out of their characters and throw down their symbol for the Blue Remembered Hills – a poetic ending that leaves the audience stunned.
Review by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Blue Remembered Hills
Peter Brook/Equity Ensemble award-nominated New Rep Theatre present Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, directed by director in residence Graham Hubbard.
Seven West-Country seven-year olds spend a WW2 afternoon playing, fighting and fantasising in a wood, a barn and a field, creating a dangerous microcosm of hostility, fear and rivalry. Carefree bullying and swaggering take a dark turn in this deceptively simple tale, played with the vibrant intensity and humour that this energetic ensemble company is fast making its name with.
Tue 25th February to Saturday 15th March 19:30
Tuesday Matinees 15:30
£12.50 / £10.50 (concession)
Box Office on 0207 383 9034
Thursday 6th March 2014