I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE!
by Bob Eaton.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 24 May 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 24 May 2.15pm.
Audio-described 24 May 2.15pm
Captioned 20 May.
Post-show Discussion 20 May.
Runs 2hr 45min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 May.
Warm-hearted evocation of wartime years and sounds.
If they had set their world on fire, the women at the heart of Bob Eaton’s 1990 play would have been the first to go up in smoke. They are the Swynnerton Roses, Staffordshire women making the bombs that won the war. Though not, of course, the bomb – a brief evocation of a World War I song followed by happy news of Japan’s surrender following Hiroshima, makes the point how far war, and the world, had come.
As do two very different women here, determined the war will lead to new lives – no wonder “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow” ends things optimistically. Young Lily won’t return to her pot-painting job, but find farm-work and love with a German prisoner-of-war. And practical, efficient Renie, marching around with her hefty toolkit whenever repairs are needed, learning to drive without a car, is set to pioneer new career paths for women.
Hannah Edwards and Angela Bain show how, through experience, expectations could expand in war work, as women for whom tomorrow will indeed be lovely.
Eaton’s script is based on ex-Swynnerton workers’ words. Just as he’d done in Good Golly Miss Molly, he built a story celebrating local people around period songs. In this play he includes a controversial historical morsel which, like one in Coventry Belgrade’s One Night in November, adds fuel to war-history controversy, claiming the Luftwaffe disciplined two aircrew who mistakenly bombed civilian targets in 1940, while Britain used the incident to justify all-out bombing of cities.
Conrad Nelson is just the person to revive the piece. Northern Broadsides’ actor, director and music man, his staging, on designer Lis Evans split-level set, allows a sense of the factory’s size and separates short scenes occurring in different locales. A fine cast dance, sing and play with apparent ease, the interval arriving with the Americans; Glen Miller’s ‘In the Mood’ spreads brightly around the stage, sweeping the gentler English songs aside.
During World War I Maude Deuchar’s short Handmaidens of Death put ordinance work in a more sinister light, but the New Vic can be allowed this happy celebration of its community.
Renie Littlejohn: Angela Bain.
Laurence Meakin/George Taylor/Arthur Harding: Adam Barlow.
Eileen Morrison: Claire Burns.
Sydney Beresford: Howard Chadwick.
Sue Rawlings: Jessica Dyas.
Lily Beresford: Hannah Edwards.
Cath Ford/Gwen Beresford: Susie Emmett.
Poppy Craig: Rachael Garnett.
Percy Snaith: Anthony Hunt.
Donald Fawcett/Harry Beresford/Bernhard: David Seddon.
Director: Conrad Nelson.
Designer: Lis Evans.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Co-arranger/Musical Director: Malcolm Newton.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
Vocal coach: Caroline Harrington.