28th June 2019
BLODS Little Theatre
Type of Production
Author: Anne Lawson
A powerful, reflective play covering 96 hours in March 1918, in the claustrophobic officers’ dugout a few days prior to Operation Michael during WW1. A most evocative script for the mixed characters and how they cope with their emotions and their personal terrors, with contrasts between horror and humour. A group of men led by Captain Stanhope, struggling to almost breaking point, surviving by whisky alone.
Anthony Lusted reacted with the ups and downs of this character showing great control. Joining his division, to his dismay, is young Raleigh a replacement with initial great enthusiasm – a boy from his old school. First timer Charlie Abrahams expressed his character's keenness, which soon gave way to showing him the reality to shock and disbelief. This adds to Stanhope’s almost irrational behaviour wanting to censor Raleigh’s home letters. Osborne is an ex-schoolmaster and talks to the young men, he would rather be back in Sussex wandering the woods. He’s affectionately referred to as ‘Uncle’. Determined to face all things he leaves his watch to return home to his wife – he accepts the inevitable, and of course young Raleigh is fatally wounded. A nice bit of humour came through the character of lower ranking moustached Trotter, with some wonderful lines, a large jocular chappie, developed perfectly by Peter Elliot. Keeping up the morale is Mason the Scottish cook who tried so very hard to produce some edible vitals and the never ending ‘nice cup of tea’. Andy Mould had some wonderful, amusing lines in his natural brogue, mostly attired in his apron, but I loved the tam-o’-shanter towards the end. Bryon Leggett played Hibbert - a difficult character forever feeling ill, a nervous, softly spoken soldier, who was finally reassured by a conversation with Stanhope telling him he felt the same. The rigid upstanding Colonel was convincingly played by Michael Turnbull. This was a tight team of men who totally understood the situation of the script and transferred the atmosphere which they maintained throughout and we the audience reacted. I myself was completely moved.
First class effort made to construct a perfect dugout – even creaky boards! The back was of wooden slats with a royal portrait and tilly lamp hanging. The exit was of camouflage webbing, with the side wall built up of numerous sandbags with small recesses – perfect for hanging up tin hats. The tiny room was simply dressed, a couple of chairs, a central table with good props including, maps, khaki army blankets, an enamel jug, mugs, cutlery etc. To the side was the galley entrance. Great use of painted corrugated iron and a sacking beam ran above. Good work from Mike Neeson – who was only going to help a bit! BLODS resident techy Callum Pelling must be congratulated for providing sensitive lighting, sound and effects throughout the action and how pleasing to learn he has secured an apprenticeship with Tech Event UK.
Simon Meeson saw the potential for the venue to become a trench dugout and not only directed this play but gave an impressive performance as Osbourne. Finally, the appearance of the costuming was very good, attention to detail in hairstyle of the era, personal props and natural movement in a very limited working space.