BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS
by Dennis Potter.
Theatre on the Fly Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 14 July 2012.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 June.
Blue Hills and green field fruitfully combine.
This new ‘pop-up theatre’, built by a group called Assemble, is Chichester’s 50th birthday present to itself and its audiences, here for a couple of months – the season to 2 September includes three new productions alongside various one-offs, discussions etc.
But the Minerva began similiarly as a tent placed around the Festival Theatre’s site. At first sight this rough-hewn structure based around a theatrical flytower (hence the rather awkward name), built like an eyesore of a tarpaulin barn across from the main theatre’s central entrance, recaptures the sense of excitement and possibility of the Minerva’s flapping predecessor.
Certainly, if it goes on as it’s begun, there’ll be a protest movement should it not reappear in future seasons. Its bank of wood-bench unreserved seating helps it resemble a barn with Andrew D Edwards’ set, which must have brought The Grapes of Wrath to mind for next season (if it has, they should look at Tim Baker’s adaptation).
Great barn-doors rear stage stay open, allowing the play’s characters to approach through Oaklands Park, till they close in the terrible climax of Dennis Potter’s oft-staged 1979 TV play. Its central device, of adults playing the childhood cast, is now familiar enough, on stage especially, but Potter had a particular point in creating it.
Though set in the Forest of Dean, and recalling Wordsworth’s “child is father to the man” there’s no Wordsworthian innocence. Parental influence hangs strongly around the girls with their pram and loner Donald hanging on, mocked by other boys, a useful diversion for any lad when tough Peter picks on them.
Skeletal lines suggest the forest of branches, a place to swing or attack a squirrel, of possibility and adventure. And when that goes wrong, to sit and avoid responsibility – creating the lifelong individual guilt echoed in the A E Houseman lines Potter used for his title.
Anna Ledwich’s aptly acted production shows the threat, shifting attentions, insecurity below apparent assurance, and the loneliness of wartime childhoods, achieving theatrical force both in the final terror overwhelming the children and the fearful quiet it imposes on what must be childhood’s end.
Peter: Gary Beadle.
Willie: Ryan Early.
Angela: Leila Farzad.
Raymond: Richard Frame.
Donald: Gregory Dudgeon.
John: Daniel Rabin.
Audrey: Laura Rogers.
Director: Anna Ledwich.
Designer: Andrew D Edwards.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Tom Meehan.