Blue Remembered Hills - Review

Dennis Potter was a prolific writer of television plays that were ground breaking in their style and content. Only a few of these have made the crossover to the stage – Blue Remembered Hills being the most successful.

Set in wartime Britain it depicts the activities of seven children as they play in the fields and the woods during a hot summer. Their games reflect the war going on around them whilst their dreams are full of the perceived glory of conflict.

Peter and John are seen contesting for top place in the gang hierarchy with Willie, the slyest of the acolytes, having an innate cunning that allows him to appear to support but undermines instead.

Stuttering Raymond and the abused and disturbed Donald are the target of the gang's tormenting and bullying.

Although not really part of the gang, Angela and Audrey are hangers on that get swept along with events. As they play 'house' they sub-consciously mimic their mothers and spout overheard domestic dialogue.

For this play Potter's unorthodox approach is to have all the children played by grown up actors. As the play develops there is a fascination in watching the adult cast successfully and humorously display childish characteristics.

The acting of each member of the cast was a joy to watch.

It was particularly pleasing to see Mike Chowney back on stage after almost a two year absence. He gave a strong performance as Peter, the bullying leader whose vulnerability is exposed when challenged by fellow gang member, John, well played by John Adam.

Once again Andy Bell gave a performance that showed how he is developing into a fine actor. As the crafty Willie his facial and body language fully conveyed the slyness of the character.

Martin Hoskins coped well with the difficulties of playing the stuttering Raymond, although bullied himself, he is not adverse to tormenting the pathetic Donald.

There was a particularly moving performance from Mark Green as the tragic Donald. The reality of his suffering tugged at the heartstrings.

Lighter relief was provided by the comic talents of Kirsty Harbron, as Angela playing at motherhood and whose attractiveness lead one to suspect that real motherhood would be an early visitor. Abigail Landon was equally funny as the plain tomboy, Audrey, always ready to give someone a good bashing.

A fine production was to my mind marred by an ugly set. Given the constraints of the studio space, one does not expect lavishness but were 2 muddy brown panels and a bare paint splattered floor the best that the production team could come up with. Surely a green floor cloth and some foliage would have conveyed better a sense of the outdoors.

That gripe apart it was an enjoyable evening of nostalgia for many of us to remember our childhoods and the summers that were always hot. Or were they?

Barrie Jerram
11 March 2006