Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Blue Remembered Hills: Review

by Emily Cheshire

(photo: Theatre on the Fly)
Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills is currently being performed at Chichester Theatre by Theatre on the Fly. Specifically for the play, the production team has constructed a special building representing a barn. Out at the back of the barn is a  surrounding field, which acts as "the woods". There are poles in the barn that represent trees, from which various actors climb, pole to pole.

Blue Remembered Hills was originally a television programme but is now performed in the theatre. The play is set in 1943, in rural England, portraying youthful seven year olds playing around in a wood on a typical summer’s afternoon. All the actors are adults even though they are pretending to be children. They acted this extremely well, so well that you got lost in the characters and believed that they were children. You forgot that they were adults playing children, so well-executed were their mannerisms and the way they fought over minor things.
(photo: Tristram Kenton)
The play opens with Willie pretending to be a pilot whilst also eating an apple; his friend Peter pretends that he has parachuted down from the trees. Peter is jealous of Willie's apple so he proves how tough he is by fighting him. Eventually the two boys spot a squirrel and decide to chase it with two other boys, Raymond and John, which leads the boys offstage and out of the scene. The staging works brilliantly as the boys jump on and off the stage, highlighting their innocence in contrast to the horror of the war taking place in the background. 
The director shows this innocence as the children, Angela, Audrey and Donald, quarrel over their "roles" in the house. Angela, a pretty girl, loves to be centre of attention and this is emphasized when she decides what parts to give her friend Audrey and manipulates her. Angela’s character can quickly change. When the attention is turned away from her, she decides to torment Donald by calling him a baby and repeating the words “Quack quack quack”. Audrey decides to join in and they both gang up against Donald, which results  in him howling, this upsetting scene reflecting the vulnerability of the poor boy.
The two girls then join the other boys in the woods. All the children get scared as they hear that an Italian prisoner has escaped, so they decide to hide in the woods. Once they figure that the prisoner is not looking to capture them, they agree to return to the barn and play a trick on Donald. However, unbeknown to them, Donald has set the barn on fire, which results in his death. The other children therefore have to live with that thought of having murdered the innocent boy for the rest of their lives. The children take the cowardly decision to lie about his death and pretend that they didn’t know anything about Donald. Eventually, one by one, the children leave the barn.
It was a melancholy ending to the play, and the whole production goes to show that what seems innocent fun with your friend can lead to serious danger with horrendous consequences. In the case of Blue Remembered Hills, the consequence is death.

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