ONE NIGHT IN NOVEMBER
by Alan Pollock.
Belgrade Theatre Belgrade Square CV1 1GS To 13 November 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & 10 Nov 2.30pm
Audio-described 6 Nov 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 024 7655 3055.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 November.
Successfully making love and war.
On 14 November 1940 Coventry city centre was pummelled by a massive German air-raid. Sixty-eight years on, Alan Pollock’s account of the bombing opened in the city’s recently-reconstructed Belgrade Theatre.
This is the play’s third outing; unsurprisingly, for local interest is complemented by dramatic skill. Pollock show Coventry’s Stanley family, and Katie Stanley’s love for Bletchley Park intelligence-worker Michael, then after the interval the bombing’s consequences.
And he develops a conspiracy theory: that the British government allowed Coventry’s destruction, to encourage America into the war and prevent Germany suspecting their Enigma codes were being deciphered at Bletchley. Though this argument is clearer in the programme than the script, the results of having no fire, air-cover or anti-aircraft guns are apparent onstage.
Both lovers, whose railway platform meeting makes for an understated Brief Encounter, are outsiders. Her father’s a voluble Communist, she’s about to move into the middle-class as a trainee teacher, while Michael’s Jewish.
Maybe the translation to a larger stage, along with the short scenes (which only become fragmentary after the interval), gives the piece a restraint suitable to the sense of daily lives disrupted by war; Pollock doesn’t have Rachmaninov, but uses Shakespeare references to develop the love story, and tie it to the conspiracy theme,
Director Hamish Glen moves the story along, helped by a good cast. Seline Hizli has a suitable bright optimism as Katie, contrasting Helen Sheals’ quiet stoicism as her mother and Greer Dale-Foulkes who goes from happy sister to suffer, with equal determination, the darker side of Coventry’s behaviour during the raid, while Georgia King has an apposite energy as the bright Bletchley girl protecting the man who rejects her.
Richard Bremmer is imposing as Katie’s dad, courage and convictions tested as he’s left traumatised and covered in dust, while Sebastian Reid is outstanding as Michael, a linguist made inarticulate by conflicting demands of love and top-secrecy. Patrick Connellan’s set allows son-of-Complicité touches – chairs falling from the sky, shoes slowly laid-out to signify the dead. Overall, this mix of character and plot has touched a local nerve with dramatic and theatrical verve.
Ken/Man: Aran Bell.
Jack Stanley: Richard Bremmer.
Joan Stanley: Greer Dale-Foulkes.
Ronald Cave/Herbert Morrison/Policeman: Neal Foster.
Katie Stanley: Seline Hizli.
Sheila Arbuthnot/Hilde Chambers: Georgia King.
Michael: Sebastian Reid.
John Martin/Peter: Roy Sampson.
Margaret Stanley: Helen Sheals.
Director: Hamish Glen.
Designer: Patrick Connellan.
Lighting/Projections: Arnim Friess.
Sound: John Scott.
Accent coach: Tim Charrington.
Assistant director: Rachel Heyburn.