AN AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY LARK
by Deborah McAndrew.
Northern Broadsides tour to 14 June 2014.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 March at New Vic Theatre Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Lively and moving picture of the Great War’s impact on a local habitation.
Two poets hangs around Deborah McAndrew’s new play; Philip Larkin, whose description of the First World War gives the title, and A E Housman, whose A Shropshire Lad is quoted, with the question of what lines follow.
You know it will be something fearful, though the programme not the play specifies what. It’s part of the success of McAndrew’s enormously enjoyable new play that she knows just how much to state, how much to hint.
Her setting for Northern Broadsides’ War centenary play is a Yorkshire village; the bombardment history’s about to bring being seen through the apparently timeless ritual of the Rushcart parade. John Farrar is referred to as the “squire” not because he’s gentry but because the term’s been appropriated for the person running the village celebration – as the "jockey" is the one riding the tall, narrow cart pulled annually through the streets.
Any furious conflict at the start is between Farrar and Mrs Armitage, whose chicks have attacked the veg destined to decorate his parade hat. After that, how much chance is there Frank Armitage will have permission to marry Mary Farrar?
McAndrew has written Broadsides’ Director Barrie Rutter a splendidly splenetic part. Farrar’s a rural Henry Horatio Hobson, made for the actor. Then she catches this voluble character in a long moment of silent devastation, to which Rutter brings gripping intensity.
With greater troubles, opposition to his daughter’s marriage slips quietly away. McAndrew’s dialogue creates love beautifully, as Darren Kuppan’s Frank loses his show-off brashness and Emily Butterfield expresses the independence and generosity of Mary’s nature.
The parade’s a dancing event for the men, and you sense in the bright, comic first act what war will bring to some of those limbs. Then, as the mood becomes less larky and traditional ways are strained, things develop with a care for each individual – like Lauryn Redding’s village girl Susie, angry at a non-combatant villager when her own love is dead.
Only a final leap-forward to the present-day casts a sentimental ‘act of homage’ feel over a play whose events and characters live through their own vibrant individuality.
John Farrar: Barrie Rutter.
Jim Haworth: Andrew Whitehead.
Edward Farrar: Jack Quarton.
William Farrar: Ben Burman.
Frank Armitage: Darren Kuppan.
Alan Ramsden: Brett Lee Roberts.
Herbert Tweddle: Mark Thomas.
Dick Shaw: Russell Richardson.
Alice Armitage: Elizabeth Eves.
Mary Farrar: Emily Butterfield.
Edie Stapleton: Sophia Hatfield.
Susie Hughes: Lauryn Redding.
Director: Barrie Rutter.
Designer: Lis Evans.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Sound: James Earle-Davis.
Composer/Choreographer: Conrad Nelson.
4-8 Mar 7.30pm M at Wed & Sat 2pm The Dukes Lancaster 01524 598500 www.dukes-lancaster.org
11-15 Mar 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Viaduct Theatre Halifax 01422 255266 www.deanclough.com
18-22 Mar 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield 01484 430528 www.thelbt.org
1-5 Apr 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm Sat 2.30pm York Theatre Royal 01904 623568 www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
8-19 Apr Mon-Sat 7.30pm except 18 Apr) Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds (Quarry Theatre) 0113 213 7700 www.wyp.org.uk
22-26 Apr 7.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough 01723 370541 www.sjt.uk.com
29 Apr-3 May Tue; Thu-Sat 7.30pm Wed 5.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm Sat 2pm Liverpool Playhouse 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
6-10 May 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Watford Palace Theatre 01923 225671 www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
13-17 May Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Fri 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
20-24 May 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Derby Theatre 01332 593939 www.derbytheatre.co.uk
27-31 May 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Everyman Theatre Cheltenham 01242 572573 www.everymantheatre.org.uk
3-7 June 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Rose Theatre Kingston-upon-Thames 08444 821556 www.rosetheatrekingston.org
10-14 June 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Oldham Coliseum 0161 624829 www.coliseum.org.uk