From the evocative tone of Dinah Shore’s Skylark at its opening, Harrogate Amateur Dramatic Society’s performance of Blue Remembered Hills transports the audience to the Forest of Dean in the 1940s, through shrewd directorial decisions and an impressive ensemble performance.
Dennis Potter’s play offers an unsettling insight into the minds of seven children, whose various antics, impressionable minds and bullying behaviour raise significant and troubling questions.
Featuring a cast of seven ‘mature’ performers in the roles of children, the play demands a level of physicality and commitment from the get-go, and the cast do not disappoint in their portrayals of this unruly rabble.
All seven performers work together brilliantly to create the sense of childishness integral to the play’s success.
However, equally impressive is the way in which they depict the sinister side of the games played and decisions made, meaning that even during moments of playfulness, the threat of violence is never far from the surface.
Paul Dunstan’s superbly acted Donald Duck is a perfectly tragic figure, in stark contrast to the equally excellent Michael Garside as conniving bully, Peter, and his pals Willie, John and Raymond, played by the fantastic Arthur Timmins, Richard Naylor and Mark Nicholls.
Not to be outdone by the boys, Gill McVey and Liz Kelley are excellent as Angela and Audrey, the pram-pushing, doll-wielding young ladies who wholeheartedly involve themselves in the bullying and general chaos surrounding the group.
Children in all but age, the cast use every inch of space in the intimate studio theatre to ramp up the escalating tension, which builds until the cleverly staged climax.
Potter’s unconventional choice to write adult actors playing children, effectively blurs the lines between who we are and who we were, exposing the intrinsic and sometimes uncomfortable link between the two.
The backdrop of wartime Britain similarly indicates how social acceptance and prevalence of violence can be dangerously pervasive, affecting children’s interactions with each other and the very eyes through which they perceive the world around them (a message which could hardly be more relevant today).
This production represents the happy combination of talent, creativity and commitment; from set-makers to costume design, from lighting and sound to expert direction from Judi Kenley at the helm, this production is certainly worth a watch.
Intensely unnerving at times, Blue Remembered Hills, is on at Harrogate Theatre Studio on Wednesday December 5, Thursday December 6, Friday December 7 and Saturday December 8 daily at 7.45pm plus a matinee on Saturday at 2pm.
Tickets: 01423 502 116,