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Review of Think of England at the Vault Festival

Leila Sykes and Madeline Gould in Think of England - Photo credit Ali Wright
Leila Sykes and Madeline Gould in Think of England – Photo credit Ali Wright

For this immersive piece of theatre the audience are welcomed into a smoky vault to the sound of a bellowing air raid siren. With the scene quickly being set, the audience are transported to the Second World War. The Waterloo Vaults are a fantastic location for this 1940s inspired story focusing on a real-life wartime scandal following Bette and Vera who have been employed to travel the country hosting tea dances to boost morale. However, the women’s real purpose is to send the young men off to fight having experienced all of life’s pleasures.

It’s easy to get drawn into the story between Bette, Vera and the three Canadian RAF pilots who turn up at the air raid shelter. After a short introductory explanation of the characters, the tension quickly rises and the audience is sucked into a world in the midst of war. The loud, echoing overhead sounds of bombs and the static wartime songs which are played throughout the production certainly adds to this effect.

This production is fully immersive and the audience are involved from the outset as Bette gives out barley sugars and the audience are invited to help decorate the shelter and join in with wartime songs. A highlight of the night for many is the chance to learn and take part in the jive.

Playwright and Vera herself, Madeline Gould, has created interesting characters and an eventful plot which develops as the evening goes on. All five members of the cast were highly effective in this intimate environment; displaying a range of emotions realistically and at ease.

The Anonymous is a Woman Theatre Company claim that Think of England challenges preconceived ideas about the attitudes of both sexes about love, sex, gender and duty. This is something which becomes more prevalent during the latter part of the play. The issues are handled sensitively and are not thrown in the audience’s faces. Instead, the audience gets to see all viewpoints and come to their own conclusions.

This stellar production certainly does a great job of engaging the audience and despite it running over time, the audience certainly left having enjoyed a night out. This is definitely one to catch during its limited run at the Vault Festival.

5 Star Rating

Review by Amanda Reynolds

The war office has employed Bette and Vera to travel the country hosting tea dances to boost morale. But how will the RAF boys react when they discover the women’s real purpose: to send the young men off to fight having experienced all of life’s pleasures? Join the ladies for an unforgettable dance, a rousing song, and a real-life war time scandal that threatens to destroy the women’s lives, shame the community and tear apart one already splintered RCAF crew. Can you save the night?

Cast and Creatives
Vera – Madeline Gould
Bette – Leila Sykes
Lt. Bill Dunne – Matthew Biddulph
Lt. Tom Gagnon – Pip Brignall
Cpl. Frank Lamb – Stefan Menaul
Playwright – Madeline Gould
Director – Tilly Branson
Assistant Director – Julia Crowley
Tech. Director – James Stokes

1 hour 30m
7th – 11th Feb 2018
Age 15+
https://vaultfestival.com/

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