We Happy Few

Date 1st May 2015
Society Harleston Players
Venue Archbishop Sancroft High School
Type of Production Play
Director David Cumming
Musical Director n/a
Choreographer n/a

Report

Author: Terry Rymer

  This ‘Happy Few’ left their audiences happy many! Just imagine if a Government Department authorising your own drama society to travel the length and breadth of the land as part of the war effort!... Especially as they were all women, perhaps unaware of their talents but with ambition, as they applied to do their bit for Queen and Country! The man from the Ministry decreed that they should tour their play to show stoic resolve and to alleviate the misery of wartime anxiety amongst the civilian population. Not made easier as the vehicle that was chosen was a Shakespearean piece (Macbeth…shhh!) which it seems was not exactly something that they particularly identified with or indeed for which their group were well cast for!

However seemingly almost bemused by their success they embarked with a zeal and enough enthusiasm to sink a battleship (hmm...a strange secret weapon!). The leader of this intrepid troop was Hetty Oaks (Eileen Ryan) who gave a tour de force performance throughout as she encouraged, cajoled and counselled the motley crew into shape; not just in the performing of their play, but also as mother figure, confidant and leader of the ‘band of sisters’, as they laughed, cried and sometimes despaired at the situation they found themselves in! She did this in such a way that no one suspected her own hidden anxiety and personal concern for a distant and ‘hidden’ secret. She never missed a beat! Her loyal sisters were willing conscripts and even Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Peters (Sara Curtis) was a woman playing a cockney man, who really wasn’t it seems! Hers was an excellent characterisation (well two really) as she/he became the unlikely ‘extra’ in the touring play but also later taking on the real life role of lesbian lover eventually coming out and forming a relationship with the ever so slightly ‘luvvie’ affected pro actor Rosalind Roberts (Becky Martin) great entrance, with Snozzle Durante nose, to show her commitment to method acting!. Founder member Flora Pelmet (Pat Paris) was perhaps the one who never quite gets the plot but does her best to please; we really sympathised with her! Helen Irving (Cherryl Jeffries) mother of Rosalind was the almost obligatory alcoholic would be actress and Jocelyn Thripp (Penny Martin) able to help in practical stage management….Perhaps the most memorable character was the very watchable Ivy Williams (Josie Grimble) the youngster of the group who made us laugh until circumstances led her to become a tragic heroine as she is encouraged by the others to ‘enjoy life’ while she can and ‘to hell with the consequences’, which, as it turned out, was somewhat ironic advice!

The German Jewish family Rosenbaum, Gertrude (Juliet Lloyd) played a realistically believable, typical Jewish mother  and her son Joseph (Joshua Gould) who ignoring his roots, and his mother, fell for Jocelyn and added more poignancy as he is called up and by default we discover that he has not survived the war! He was a believable young man with divided loyalties. Their love for each other is played out against the backdrop of anti semitic tension which manifests itself throughout as the Rosenbaums are released from internment and forge friendships with the women! We add Reggie Pelmet (Barry Givens) the ever present chauffeur with GB written right through him, and man of many, albeit minor, parts (Steve Askew) completing this well cast line up!

The story depends on the ability of all cast members to evoke in us both empathy and understanding as we share their innermost thoughts and fears plus joys of life and their increasing care and compassion for each other.

The live music from accomplished musicians Pam Vinten-Phipps and Juliet Lloyd added evocative atmosphere to the play and lighting and effects really completed the picture played effectively in the round; always a challenging set up, but one which so often brings out the best in Harleston Players productions.

This was a truly thought provoking piece, if difficult to categorise between wartime nostalgia or personal life drama with possible almost overburdened need to provoke feminist issues. No matter… It was performed with emotional gravitas. The pace and belief of the cast with the additional attention to technical detail certainly gripped the sell out audiences. Did I detect a tear or two!?