Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Hall’

It’s very hard to write about this extraordinary, captivating piece by Rita Kalnejais. It defies both categorisation and description, but I’ll try…..

Set near Chartres, France towards the end of the Second World War, it tells the story of the love at first sight between young German soldier Otto and local girl Elodie. Otto believes everything he’s been told about ‘Mr. Hitler’ and the objectives and progress of the war. He’s expecting to begin an invasion of England at dawn, when in reality the allies are in the process of liberating France. This contrasts with his naivety and charming innocence wooing Elodie. She too is naive and innocent and, well, charming, but they both get a dose of reality, when Otto finds he’s missed the retreat rather than the invasion and Elodie realises there will be consequences to befriending a Nazi. An intimate love story against a backdrop of war.

Whilst the story is being played out on a turfed stage representing their secret isolated spot, there are two adults in karaoke boxes with microphones and headphones who sing songs and occasionally read lines from a video screen, before they join the youngsters at the conclusion. Perhaps they represent those who were once lovers like Otto and Elodie? Their presence is incongruous but fascinating. Their songs are current pop tunes, as contemporary as the language and behaviour of the teenagers. The quirkiness, the surprise, the ambiguity is all part of this charming cocktail.

Cecile Tremolieres’ design looks beautiful and Jay Miller’s staging is delicate. Bradley Hall and Hannah Millward are delightful as the young couple. I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage for its 70 minutes running time. Take a chance on it if you can get a ticket in this extra, final week.

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This is the sixth, and probably last, of my Rattigan centenary productions. His short one-acter, The Browning Version, set in a public school in the 40’s is usually paired with another one-acter called Harlequinade. Here it’s paired with a new play from David Hare set in a similar school 20 years later.

Rattigan’s play is a deeply moving tale of a school master with an unfaithful wife and unfair employer, but at its heart is an act of kindness by a pupil. A set of superb performances make Angus Jackson’s production shine like a gem. Nicholas Farrell as the master is initially pompous and irritating, but then almost breaks your heart. Anna Chancellor is icy cold as his unfaithful wife and Mark Umbers diffident but ultimately sympathetic as her lover. Liam Morton gives a very nuanced performance as the boy, a most auspicious professional debut. It’s a subtle and sensitive staging which benefits greatly from the intimacy of the Minerva space.

Hare’s ‘curtain raiser’ shows 60’s boys more questioning and challenging, but little else has changed in public schools with bullying a fact of daily school life. Older pupil Jeremy takes young John under his wing introducing him to his mother, Anna Chancellor now in a much more sympathetic role.  Again, an act of kindness is at the heart of the play, but this time we see things from the perspective of the pupil. The younger boys – Alex Lawther’s John, Jack Elliott’s Gunter (two more outstanding professional debuts) and Bradley Hall’s Jenkins are terrific and again the staging, this time by Jeremy Herrin, is subtle and sensitive.

Though they are very different plays, they sit very comfortably together and provide a deeply rewarding and very human evening, linked by these acts of kindness 20 years apart and 50-70 years ago, yet timeless.

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