Blue Remembered Hills

Date 6th October 2021
Society Congleton Players Amateur Theatre Club
Venue The Daneside Theatre, Congleton
Type of Production Play
Director Simon Matthews
Producer Ria Green

Report

Author: Joe Clarke

Warning – contains spoilers!

With their first play back since the pandemic, I think it’s fair to say that NODA award winning Congleton Players are back with a bang!  Directed by Simon Matthews, Blue Remembered Hills (by Dennis Potter) is a thought-provoking piece of theatre which tackles a multitude of themes, and this version does not shy away from any of these themes at all.  Set in WW2 1943, the play tells the story of seven children in one day.  The children, played by adults, explore the concept of death which is very much at the forefront of the play.  There are many times the children play with death in their childish games which is then mirrored with the death within the piece itself.  Simon Matthews’ direction is pretty much spot on.  His staging is visually striking, and the fire scene left me with a sense of wonder.  Simon’s clever and fantastic use of projection made the scene changes to be simple, swift and very effective.  The choice of music (with bellowing cello) was audibly brilliant and really helped layer the piece.  There were many layers to the piece which added to the overall pace, 4D feeling and immersive experience.  The staging created levels and immersed the audience into the woods from the beginning.  All of the technical elements worked very well together to enhance the whole piece.  I loved the staging - simply stunning!

The sound was particularly good.  I loved the use of birdsong throughout which added another layer to the production.  I also loved how loud and bellowing the music was in the scene changes.  The use of the cello was great and helped create an eery feel.  The lighting was generally very good too, however there were some areas on the stage which were darker than others which the actors were stood in for scenes.  I know that in a forest not everything is going to be the same light, but this felt a little too dark (I’m being very picky here).

The costume and props added emphasis to characterisation and an important layer to aid character and location.  From the woolly jumper that ‘Peter’ used as his parachute to the old-fashioned pram – each costume was thought about and each prop added to characterisation.  Well done to Wendy McKie and Sarah Helsby Hughes for your contribution.

Simeon Green played the role of loveable Willy – and love him we did!  Simeon brought the audience in from the opening scene where he established character, tone and location.  His characterisations and accent were excellent, and Simeon was extremely well cast in this role!  A delightful performance!

Robin Jackson played the role of ‘tough guy’ Peter.  Whilst it was slightly hard to get used to Robin’s accent in his opening scene (a tiny bit more diction was needed for me), his accent was actually very good throughout, as was his performance.  I loved the mannerisms that Robin had, kicking away the bark etc with his foot and he was delightful to watch!  A fantastic debut with Congleton Players!

Adrian Grace played the role of John, the ‘brave one’.  Whilst I would’ve loved to have seen more mannerisms like the others, Adrian was very well cast as John and played this role very well.  Adrian has a great natural ability of drawing the audience in and captivating audiences and this was evident in this production too.

Michael Shneck was brilliant as the nervous ‘Raymond’.  His stutter was very believable and consistent throughout.  Michael had a great rapport with the other ‘boys’ and it was great to see his mannerisms which suited his character.  A great performance!

John Beech was captivating as Donald (Duck).  John took risks which paid off and his scenes were emotive and believable.  I loved some of his characterisations which added to the darker side of the piece.  Another great performance!

Louise Colohan played the role of ‘Mumsy’ Angela.  Louise brought good humour to the piece which contrasted to the themes.  Her opening scene with Donald and Audrey was great to watch, as was her physicality and facial expressions when hiding from the ‘Itie’.

Niamh Brazier was well cast as the ‘Nurse’ Audrey, who ironically used her wit and physicality to beat down the other characters.  Niamh delivered her lines with great comic timing and was suitably funny throughout.  I loved the rapport that both Louise and Niamh had.  Their storytelling was great. 

The dialogue in this piece is frightening and thought-provoking.  The girls in particular explored the themes of death, all whilst ‘looking after their doll’.  The fire scene was both staged and acted brilliantly from everyone.  The fire scene in particular was outstanding and very unnerving.  I LOVED the fact that it went on and on for so long and became suffocating to watch – right up my street!

With a stellar cast and excellent staging, it’s fair to say that this production is a hit!  I only hope that Congleton Players’ audiences return to see this production as it would be a great shame to miss – this play deserves a sell-out audience!

I thank Congleton Players for their hospitality and wish them all the very best for their next production of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers in February 2022.