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Theatre and Dance

Blue Hill Remembered (PhotoTechnix/Street Theatre)
Donald, Audrey and Angela

Review: Blue Remembered Hills

Jason Ham and Harry Mottram
Two reviewers, Jason Ham and Harry Mottram, review Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills, performed by the Street Theatre company at the Strode Theatre between 8 and 11 March, 2006.

Jason Ham's review

With a script that required adult actors to play seven-year-old children in the West Country, 1943, this was not going to be an easy production to portray on the Strode Theatre stage.

I had seen the script previously (as I'm currently in preparation for myself to be performing the production) so I knew what the drama required. The question was: could adults do the script, mastered wonderfully by Dennis Potter, any justice?

My doubts were soon set to rest as Willie (played by Paul Townsend) leaped onto stage acting out an aeroplane, which in my opinion was slightly a sluggish opening scene.

His characterisation of Willie, with the noises seven-year-old children make, meant that the audience, who were previously quiet, erupted into laughter.

Peter (Phil Turley) also leaped onto the stage in this first scene, a character which rightfully complimented the character of Willie.

Blue Hill Remembered (PhotoTechnix/Street Theatre)
Peter and Willie (PhotoTechnix for Street Theatre)

Both of these characters set the precedent for the whole production which was to follow - and what a production it was!

Characterisation from all the actors was magnificent. There were plenty of times I was thinking I was seeing seven-year-old children on stage, apart from when I looked at their heights which soon changed my mind!

Another character to note is Donald (played by Gary Marinven) who certainly put a sense of reality throughout all of his scenes and certainly brought those Blue Remembered Hills to flood by for the packed-out audience.

I would also like to mention Bob Prince who provided the audience with a wonderful portrayal of the stuttering Raymond, which is hard to portray at the best of times.

Bob provided the evening with wonderful characterisation, which left me in no doubt that he certainly was 'living' the character not simply going through the motions.

Throughout the production, it was clear that the director, Karen Trevis, had put a lot of work into this production.

If I had one quibble, it would be that in some scenes I was getting quite bored of the characters using, what it seemed, one tone of voice, and using the same volume.

With the fact that the actors were playing seven-year-olds, this factor quite possibly can be excused.

The direction was successful so much it seemed every actor was confident about their character.

Karen should also be thanked as set designer for the simplistic, yet rightfully suitable set.

If only the stage crew didn't talk so loudly when moving the set to distract away from the atmosphere, this would have also been perfect.

Sound and lighting were rightfully brilliant and appropriate for each of the scenes. I especially liked it when the lights changed as the barn was getting turned around by the characters on stage - brilliant!

A special mention should go to Joan Patch for the wonderful costumes which enhanced the performance and appearance of each and every character.

Blue Hill Remembered (PhotoTechnix/Street Theatre)
The cast (PhotoTechnix for Street Theatre)

This was a truly magnificent production - well done to cast and crew!

A special thanks should go to the cast for allowing my GCSE Drama group to speak to them about the show - this has helped us a lot for us when we perform our own production of Blue Remembered Hills.

This was the first Street Theatre production I have seen, and my first time to the Strode Theatre. I'm certainly going to be coming back for more!

Harry Mottram's review

This was a slick and physical production by Street Theatre of Denis Potter's glimpse into the minds of a group of children.

Set in wartime Gloucestershire, the play was made famous as a BBC TWO 1979 production featuring Helen Mirren, Michael Elphick and Colin Welland.

Reading those names gives the clue to the play's unique draw. Adults play children. They don't play adults looking back as children, but they wear the clothes of 1940s kids and speak and behave as a bunch street urchins. A testing thing to do.

The cast of seven in Karen Trevis's production all found the child within. Rob Prince as Raymond, Gary Makinven as Donald, Sarah Hold as Angela, and Paul Townsend as Willie in particular found the right balance without becoming caricatures of children.

Angela Bell as Audrey was particularly animated, perhaps too animated at times, but has a clear voice and precise movement.

Peter Turley as the main protagonist Peter was strong, but tended to outgun Nigel Webb as John in their physical confrontations, although it is John who comes out on top.

These are very testing roles for any actor, and Karen Trevis coaxed believable performances from all of the cast.

Their interplay in particular was good, and it was evident that the performers had worked hard to retain their characters throughout with crying, grizzling and grimaces all well observed.

The drama centres around the idle chatter, games and niggling rivalries of a group of children playing in the Forest of Dean.

One of them, Donald, becomes isolated from the group and is singled out for bullying. Despite his obvious intelligence Donald is unable to cope with the teasing and the children's games end in a horrific fire.

There is also a sort of power struggle for the number two spot in the gang between Peter and John which is resolved by a fight.

We never see the group's number one boy Wallace, which was a neat parallel of life - of everyone fighting over the lower rungs of life's social ladder.

The set included vertical ladders and a few boxes. Although there was a pram and a symbolic hay barn, the set was bare.

The sub-text is that of a group of children interpreting the adult world around them and trying to behave like grown-ups: with all the failings of their elders.

There is racial and social prejudice, violence, name-calling, ignorance, cheating and social aspiration. Without the safe guards of civil society or the veil of social niceties, the dark side of humanity is quickly revealed.

Just as in Golding's Lord of the Flies, Potter's children turn into savages, killing a squirrel in an orgy of violence and being extremely unpleasant to each other.

Who is who in the pecking order of their social group seems to be of the utmost importance to them, and anyone who doesn't fit into this structure is bullied and picked upon.

The play has much humour and is an accurate portrayal of children - hence its enduring popularity. Street Theatre's production accentuated the humour and physical falling about.

At times this was extremely effective, but at others, the sheer physicality and an irresistible urge by some of the cast to play up their child roles to the audience meant there was unexpected and unwanted laughter.

Blue Hill Remembered (PhotoTechnix/Street Theatre)
The cast (PhotoTechnix for Street Theatre)

Perhaps the weakness of the production was the space. The Strode is a huge stage, and Blue Remembered Hills is really an intimate piece of work more suited to a studio area.

The clumping of the actors' shoes and boots on the stage detracted from their audibility, and the stage was not used to its full potential.

In general it was left as a huge space, with the ladders not really utilised. It was left to the imagination of the audience to see the Forest of Dean.

The action did come down into the audience at times, and the actors used a small apron at the front of the stage in one scene to create a sense of intimacy which worked well.

It should also be pointed out that, although the cast did not all have Gloucestershire accents, they did all keep their West Country vowels throughout. Something that professional actors sometimes fail to achieve.

last updated: 14/03/06
Have Your Say
Have you seen Blue Remembered Hills? What did you think?
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Bonnie, 14
We are studying this in GSCE Drama. I played Angela, and the most challenging part of the character is the Westcountry accent. It started out Welsh, and ended up Liverpudlian!However I can't find a clip of the original (1979) tv series... Does anyone know if there is a version, and if so, where? x

x Becky x
HiiyaI did this for my GCSE Drama performance and I played Audrey, it was so much fun.

at school we are doing this play now it is quite easy but i really cant do the accent. lool. my drama teacher is the head of drama and always does plays in and out of school so he knows absolutly everything about blue remembered hills. Sharniee.Ox x

Abi 14
We're doing it at the moment in Drama and it's really good-but I'm finding the accent really hard :S

x Harps x
Me and my fellow class friends recently performed an extract from 'Blue Remembered Hills' and I think it is a different play to explore! x :D x

April 15
Im studying this at GCSE drama aswell and i found it interesting to perform and i really enjoyed it... i played Angela and i think i chose this character because i can relate it to myself, it was fun. It is hard to find the script online though lol xxx

aaron huxter
we done loads of drama lessons on this play and its truly an amazing play!!

I haven't seen it,but were reading it in drama,it's actually really good :)

lisa age 16
we are studying it in drama and i think its really a great film..

nicole beaven 15
heyy I Am Doing Thid As A Gcse coursework its hard but so much fun loolx

I really like the Play we are doing it now in drama for GCSE Im peter and as a girl its really hard for me and the boy who plays donald is like 2 times as high as me :s does any one know however where i can find the trailer?xXx

adesh gurung
it was gd but boring

good production

its ace :D

sam and charlotte, 14
we recently performed blue remembered hills for out GCSE drama piece, archbishop temple school, and it was a fun lively and enjoyable play.

sam and charlotte, 14
we recently performed blue remembered hills for out GCSE drama piece, archbishop temple school, and it was a fun lively and enjoyable play.

I Have Seen This Play And Also proformed The Script In BTEC Proformance arts Thia Is A Very Deep Meaning Play x x

were doing blue remembered hill now fantastic script writing loving the play and the accent :D xXx

chloe tomkinson
this sounds brill !

Megan morgan
heya i think the ploay is really good infact im a girl but playing a boys part in blue remembered hil at my school for GCSE , on here it would be better to show indaviduale pictures of the characters. because i need to find out what my character has to wear for my final assesment. thank you Mez :p

i like the film but i don't the way adult were actors like children. xxxxxx

i'm doing this play n school in this page have helpe me alot thanks bbc xx

David Parr
A lasting memory

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