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Theatre Reviews


photo
Cast members outside the Maddermarket

Once Upon A War

Based on the book by Denise Coffey, Once Upon a War is performed by the Norfolk Youth Music Theatre and follows the lives of a group of Jersey residents during the German occupation of the Channel Islands in the Second World War.


The musical drama, Once Upon a War based on the book by Denise Coffey, focuses on a family who choose to stay on the island of Jersey rather than flee to the safety of England, because their beloved Labrador cannot be evacuated with them.

With the play in two halves - depicting the family's life at the start of the occupation and then five years later - we watch the family grow up, with the younger actors being replaced by their older counterparts.

A picturesque scene of people on the beach opens the story and sets the tone for a play that is well acted, beautifully sung and slickly directed.

Rachel Binns reviews Once Upon a War

The general consensus is that you should never work with animals, but this production must be the exception.

With two dogs on stage - often at the same time, it could have been a recipe for disaster, but the dogs behaved themselves beautifully. They were so obedient and blasé about their role in the spotlight you'd think they'd been doing it for years!

This production by the Norfolk Youth Music Theatre stars 17-year-old Stephanie Moore in the pivotal role of Ellen. She gives an excellent performance as the mother struggling to hold her family together throughout the occupation.

Stephanie portrays the strain of living under the German occupation with great subtlety - with Ellen's pain resonating through her beautiful singing voice.

She skillfully swings between despair and anger, weariness and hope, showing a maturity beyond her years.

Of the youngsters, the young Georgina who gets separated from her mum during the evacuation, played by Sarah Carter particularly stands out in my mind.

The two boys, John-Richard (played by Harry Burt) and Harry (played by Richard Wilson) have a particularly good rapport with each other.

The scene in which they meet Annie-Mary and Sally after the curfew is delightful - the two girls giggle profusely with the gregarious teenage boys anxious to impress.

Director Adrian Connell has done a great job. Although there are more scene changes than an episode of EastEnders, they are slick. Although he plays on the pathos of the story, Connell is careful not to let it slide into sentimentality.

A few light-hearted scenes help bring some much needed relief to what is essentially quite a serious play. Most notably, I loved the scene when the Germans interrupt some boys playing cricket and demand that they be taught how to play.

The young John-Richard, played by Charlie Birchall, cheekily plays on the German officer's ignorance by making a complete fool of him. Credit to the boys for their comic timing.

The only drawback is that the music - although well performed by the orchestra - tended to drown out the singing, particularly of the younger actors.

I felt terribly frustrated when all I could hear was their playing and none of the singing, which is a shame as it's a great production.

Once Upon a War is showing at The Maddermarket Theatre from Wednesday 3-6 November, 2004

last updated: 05/11/04
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Andrew Martins
I believe that this show was a task to stage, and praise should be given to Adrian Connell for all his hard work which he had put in to make the show so wonderful! Well done to all the cast, and praise shouldn't just be given to the main characters but to the chorus and minor parts of the company. They were the ones who made the show what it was. Well done, great show!
Wed Apr 6 14:06:26 2005

Allyson Butcher
I thought this show was very well performed, originally i wouldn't of seen this because i had never heard of it. But when i saw the reviews i decided to catch the matinee. It was a very good show, with fantastic music and excellent acting. Stephanie Moore was absolutely amazing as Ellen, she portrayed the part really well. All the minor parts like Sally, annie-mary , John Richard, Harry, etc were excellent too. As Rachel Binns says the moonlight scene was lovely, well sung and the four acted well as the teenagers, that would have to of been my highlight of the show. Also Ellens solo was captivating, lovely show and hope it gets the praise it deserves.
Tue Mar 1 10:43:07 2005

Joe Man
I thought that it was very good. Without most of the cast it wouldn't of been anything. Well done to all the cast!
Fri Jan 28 17:39:53 2005

Alan Smith
I thought this show as fantastic. The youngsters did such a brilliant job. Stephanie Moore who played Ellen was amazing, I also thought the character Sally played by Elizabeth Futter was amazing and also her younger Catriona Dunn. Very much enjoyed and i look forward to the next show.
Thu Dec 9 09:06:04 2004

Star
I wish id seen this. Stephanie sounds like she was fantastic! I look forward to seeing her on stage as Mary Magdalen in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Theatre Royal at end of Jan 2005.
Fri Nov 12 16:57:04 2004

Freya Benson
Once upon a war was a exiting and thrilling musical that captured the spirit of the period. Ellen was an extremely well acted and sung character, the chorus and more minor parts were brilliant as well and Sally's mum was the most captivating character in the performance. well done.
Sat Nov 6 19:45:22 2004

Philip Carter
I don't know when you reviewed this, although the group only had the full run through on the first night. My wife informs me the second night was even better. Great review for the youngsters.
Fri Nov 5 11:37:04 2004

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