BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS
by Dennis Potter.
New Diorama Theatre 15-16 Triton Street Regents Place NW1 3BF To 15 March 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Tue: 3.30pm.
Runs: 1 hr no interval.
TICKETS : 0207 383 9034.
Review: Carole Woddis of 4 March.
Wartime innocence and destruction sharply played.
Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills was among the star turns of the BBC’s ‘Plays for Today’ in the late 1970s, the series that spawned a generation of new writers, directors and actors. Potter, of course, was the great innovator with groundbreakers such as Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective.
Always keen to push the boundaries of drama per se as well as television drama, in Blue Remembered Hills Potter is dicing with something more modest, if no less intense: children at play.
The story – or snapshot – tells of a summer’s afternoon in 1943 where a group of West country children are idling away their time. Is the year symbolic? This is after all, wartime. Their games reflect the mood with a mixture of derring-do fantasy as bomber pilots and parachutists, but equally fear and vulnerability. There are fights, ganging-up, the quintessential `mums & dads’ sequence reflecting behaviour at home, and moments of kindness.
The apparent inconsequentiality shouldn’t disguise us to the fact that Potter, like William Golding in Lord of the Flies (1954) was exploring the antecedents of cruelty, its roots in childhood and how quickly innocence can turn to brutality.
Still very much a play for today given the levels of bullying constantly quoted in schools and online, it’s no coincidence Potter chose a quote from A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad as the title. The piece is infused with a haunting sense of loss and a climax which implies that all those involved will look back on their childhood with deep regret. Actions have consequences and denial is no answer to a collective crime. Potter’s reference here must surely have a wider reference than the Vale of Dean.
As stipulated, the children are played by adults, and in this revival by the up and coming New Rep Theatre, with gusto and sharp characterisation. You wince at Gary Roe’s nascent skinhead, Peter, and warm easily to Glenn Lloyd’s protective Willie. Director Graham Hubbard creates a playground of a simple climbing frame and evokes the atmosphere of the time with popular songs encapsulating its jaunty optimism and tender sentimentality.
John: Mathew Foster.
Raymond: Paul Harnett.
Willie: Glenn Lloyd.
Audrey: Rose McPhilemy.
Angela: Nellie McQuinn.
Peter: Gary Roe.
Donald: Christopher York.
Director: Graham Hubbard.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Scenic Artist: Paul Wallis.
Design advisor: Nicolai Hart Hansen
Movement/Physicality advisor: Francesca Jaynes
Dialect advisor: Deborah Garvey
This revival of Blue Remembered Hills by New Rep Theatre opened 25 February 2014.