And A Nightingale Sang at Barn Theatre review

PUBLISHED: 11:21 13 February 2011 | UPDATED: 20:22 17 February 2011

And a Nightingale Sang

And a Nightingale Sang

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WARTIME drama And a Nightingale Sang played at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City last month. Here Welwyn Hatfield Times theatre critic Wendy Keeling Taylor reviews the production.

And a Nightingale Sang

C P TAYLOR’S World War Two working class domestic drama, set in Newcastle, captured the austerity of the time as the Stott family coped with the fear and air raids from the outbreak of war in 1939 through to the relief and joy of VE Day in 1945.

The essential humour of Tyneside was evident, as were the Geordie accents, which were generally well maintained throughout, as was Norman’s Brummie accent.

It is generally accepted that northern men are masters in their households but the women who keep things going.

This was definitely the case here with Da-George (Mike Smith) preferring to immerse himself in singing and playing the piano than deal with problems.

His religious wife, Peggy, brilliantly portrayed by Siobhan Hill Elam, was less than supportive as she kept dashing off to the church to say her Hail Marys.

But the affection was evident between them, as it was within the whole family.

The fear of my own childhood was recalled especially when the Stotts sheltered under the dining room table as the realistic sounds of air raid sirens, bombing, flying aircraft and gunfire were heard. The sound team had excelled.

Moving the action along between scenes was Tammy Wall as narrator Helen, whose portrayal of the practical, caring, slightly disabled elder daughter, held the family together.

On stage throughout, the actress gave a superb performance.

Her younger, self-concerned, flighty, sister Joyce (Catherine Rocca) was undecided about becoming engaged to her gauche soldier boyfriend Eric (Elliot Brown) whose military career was blighted.

Eric’s gentle, army friend, Norman (Rhett Keene) with whom Helen falls in love, was eventually to cause her heartache on learning that he was already married.

Her strong character ensured she survived with confident independence.

John Walton had stepped in only two weeks before the performance as Granda-Andie, and although initially somewhat hesitant, his performance gained confidence as the cat and dog loving old man, with some very funny observations about life in general.

Sensitively directed by Yvana Reeves, the play included songs of the period between the scenes as well as excellent props and costumes.

I am certain many in the audience recognised some scenes from their own lives in this exploration of the human condition under the pressures and difficulties of wartime Britain.


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