|Date||23rd July 2021|
|Type of Production||Play|
Author: Joyce Hanbury
The Chatsworth Players, with Covid in mind, decided to perform outdoors for the first time and because of the hardships we have all endured during the pandemic thought that perhaps a comedy, with a small cast, would fulfil this brief. They chose to perform ‘Heroes’ a play Gérald Sibleyras was commissioned to write in 2003 (the original title is ‘Le Vent des Peupliers’) and which Tom Stoppard translated into English in 2005. The play takes place outside on a small terrace in the garden of a home for retired servicemen in France, in August 1959. Three veterans meet here everyday and goad one another into trying new adventures. They consider the terrace their personal space, but on hearing that it is going to become available to others, decide to escape. They discuss various options some as far away as Indochina but eventually settle on going to the poplar trees on a distant hill.
The three men were Henri, a kindly, pragmatic realist, Philippe, who lapses into unconsciousness and is nervously paranoid and Gustave, an agoraphobic and assertive ex officer. Henri was extremely well played by Chris Pawley in his so appropriate fair isle jumper. Henri loves to go for walks to the nearby village where he admires, from a distance, Rose, the comely school mistress. Chris’s description of one such outing was so movingly delivered. His attempts at teaching rope skills to assist the others when supposedly climbing up the distant hill, was absolutely hilarious as was the reciprocal scenario when he was trying to show Gustave how to greet someone. Another very fine performance was delivered by Barrie Goodwin as Gustave. He was very well attired and totally encompassed the pompous, critical and assertive nature of the character with surface charm and his affinity to the very large statue of a dog was so special. Gustave is terrified of meeting strangers but he eventually does venture out with little success and the following chat with Henri causes him to break down, which was so emotionally expressed by Barrie. Tim Warburton completely captured the nuances of Philippe and was impeccably dressed as befitted the character. He portrayed the vulnerability and the pathos of Philippe superbly. His frequent lapses into unconsciousness caused by shrapnel in his brain were quite believable as was his paranoia concerning his conviction that Sister Madeleine was trying to kill him.
To do justice to this play you definitely need three very experienced actors and The Chatsworth players had, as members, three such men. All three were just brilliant, each portraying their individual character to perfection whilst complementing each other. Their timing and acting skills together with the way in which they managed to engage our empathy to their personal states of mind and physical needs was just exceptional - I cannot praise them enough.
The Director, Lindsay Jackson, must be so proud that this endeavour to produce an open-air show in three different venues with all the problems that could ensue, delivered such an outstanding piece of theatre. Every accolade must go to her, to the actors and indeed to everyone involved and the standing ovation at the end of the performance which I attended, was so well deserved.