Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Review for Blue Remembered Hills at Derby Theatre June 2013

Dennis Potter's play 'Blue Remembered Hills' is a story about the past, the present and the future and follows the lives of a group of seven year old children experimenting through boisterous play to make some sense of the world around them.

The play is set during World War II and the children are discovered playing in the idyllic setting of the Forest of Dean on a beautiful summer day in 1943. They play, they taunt and fight and define relationships with each other by bickering and bullying to be top dog. There is also a great sense of fun and hilarity to be had as the children play their games and build complex friendships. Then in the midst of the play one tragic event changes the way they look at life forever.

Ruari Murchison and Colin Grenfell's stage design of an imposing dark grey hill and blank screen onto which the shadows of trees are cast works well with this version and the potent musical score (Olly Fox) serves well to add several layers of story telling enhancement and drama.

Director Pysche Stott believes that Dennis Potter's play is not only a piece that describes human capability for brutality, namely, the children’s relationships and the major world war going on in the adult world, but also about the human capability for joy, pleasure and wonder. And it is all these attributes that come alive on the stage with the seven children being played by adults – the remembered – aspect of the story.

All the cast work brilliantly as a team and the 'child-like' and childish personalities are superbly drawn. This, to quote Dennis Potter, is “childhood defined as the adult society writ large without all the conventions and the polite forms which overlay”. The work on the stage in Blue Remembered Hills at Derby Theatre has a fluidity and creative freedom and above all boldness and daring and makes for very fulfilling theatre. It is often extremely funny with darker undertones.

At the centre of the piece Christopher Price shines as the cruel and bullying Peter. James Bolt gets the sympathetic note as the stuttering, cowboy outfit wearing Raymond and David Nellist is terribly funny as the non- judgemental boy called Willie who just wants to be loyal and fair to all and is obsessed with Spitfires.

Tilly Gaunt portrays the sniffy Angela to perfection, at once vain and childishly superior, her deeper insecurities are subtly demonstrated though her interpretation. Joanna Holden as Audrey brings a real sense of tenacity to her character and is a wonderful comedian. Adrian Grove moves emotionally as the maltreated Donald who is desperately missing his father and Phil Cheadle portrays his character with a quiet authority and is particularly impressive in his scenes standing up to the bullying Peter. The whole piece has great energy.

The late Dennis Potter wrote 'Children are as intense in happiness as they are in misery. They live in the moment. That's the art of living that most adults have lost. Remembering how to live in the moment and why it might be important to do that as adults.'

This play is chock full of those important moments in our lives and an unforgettable evening at Derby Theatre.

Phil Lowe

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