Thurs 21st November - Sat 23rd November & Tues 26th November - Sat 30th November 1996
Directed by Neil Pugmire
It's a hot summer's day in 1943 and seven children play, laugh, sing and cry somewhere in the woods just before tea-time. In a whirl of constant activity, their lives are brim-full of joy and horror, anxiety and delight.
Dennis Potter's affectionate study captures the traumas of childhood beneath the apparently innocent surface. He reminds us that adults are children who have simply substituted subtlety for spontaneity. That rose-tinted nostalgia for the 'blue remembered hills' of our youth is not always justified.
'Blue Remembered Hills' was originally commissioned by the BBC as part of its 1979 Play for Today series. It won the 1980 BAFTA TV Award for Best Single Play
The story revolves around a summer's afternoon in a remote country setting - according to the script in the West Country, but probably meant to represent the Forest of Dean - in 1943. A group of seven seven year olds are playing in the forest. The play opens with Willie, eating an apple and pretending to pilot a war plane, when he encounters, falling from a tree as a parachutist, Peter. After a fight over Willie's apple - in which Peter attempts to show how powerful a bully he can be - the two eventually spot a squirrel and chase and corner it up a tree. They are joined by John and Raymond , and the group of lads attempt to force the squirrel down the tree and managed to trap and kill it. Meanwhile, in a barn nearby Donald Duck is playing with Angela and Audrey. As they engage in their fantasy game of Mummies and Daddies (and later, on Audrey's insistence, Doctors and Nurses) we see how vulnerable a child Donald is as he suffers some vicious teasing from the two girls.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Stage Manager||Gemma Harding|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Paul Southwood|
|Lighting Design||Andrew Caple |
|Lighting and Sound |
|Props||Gemma Harding |
|Leaflet Design||Pete Woodward|
|Programme Design||Neil Pugmire |
|Set Design||Neil Pugmire |
|Set Construction Manager||Tim Taylor|
Conceived as the events of one summer afternoon in 1943, Dennis Potter's affectionate study captures all the joy, horror, anxiety and delight of children at play.
Semi-autobiographical in nature, Blue Remembered Hills is set in a West Country forest similar to the one near which Potter himself grew up. Compared with most of his other plays, it is by far the simplest and most accessible - with none of his normal flashbacks, premonitions or other dramatic devices. It is therefore the easiest of his TV plays to transfer to the stage. But Potter did insist on one thing - that all the parts should be played by adults. He wanted to avoid the "Ahh!" factor of seeing fresh-faced children on stage and focus the audience's attention on the emotions they themselves felt as a child. "The adult body acts as a kind of magnifying instrument which, because it has to loosen up and let go, reminds us more of just how mobile and swift movement is in the childhood world, and yet how long time is," he said in 1978.
The challenge for actors and director alike is to remember the apparently trivial details of growing up which at the time seemed so important - the shame of coming to school with a new haircut or the joy of capturing a tadpole in a jar - and transfer those emotions onto stage. The story is a simple one, but it should spark into life a hundred similar memories of our own youth.
Adults are seldom encouraged to behave childishly, but the actors in this piece by Dennis Potter - adapted from his 1979 TV play - are positively encouraged not to act their age. The year may be 1943 and the setting the West Country, but the themes are timeless and universal. Potter demonstrates that human behaviour is the same no matter what age the participants are. The bullying, taking sides, picking on outsiders and make-believe of childhood games are merely played out on a bigger scale and long trousers as adults.
This Bench Theatre production is given a sure, short (90-minutes, no interval), sharp staging by Neil Pugmire. It's to the credit of the performers - Pete Woodward, Peter Corrigan, Andy Rees, Simon Walton, Sally Hartley, Jude Salmon and David Penrose - that they soon make you forget they're adults and draw us into their childhood of war games, squirrel-hunting and nose-picking. It continues tonight and Saturday, then November 26-30.
The News, 22nd November 1996