NODA REVIEW: Lilies on the Land

Directed by Mark Preston assisted by Martin Robinson.

This was my first visit to CTW as their Rep, although not the first time I had reviewed one of their shows.  Their intimate theatre is just right for small scale plays and I was really looking forward to this one which I knew of but had never seen.

We were the first to enter the auditorium which was very dimly lit with a rotating glitter ball overhead. Trying to read the programme in this situation was not a good experience. The open stage was also in darkness which I thought was a shame.  In my opinion a set, suitably lit, can appear very welcoming, giving the audience a heightened feeling of anticipation before the cast enters. 

The script is constructed from letters written by land girls during World War 2 to their loved ones back home, and from interviews with those willing to share their experiences. Many came from towns and cities and although for some it was a big adventure with a happy ending, for others it was a rude awakening as the relative comforts of urban dwelling gave way to the realities of life down on the farm.  All of their stories had been cleverly encapsulated into just four characters.

Jane Fielding, Jacquie Newman, Rachel Curren and Suzy White were Margie, Peggy, Poppy and Vera, four girls from different backgrounds whose job it was to help feed the country.  Each had developed their characters well and the play was well rehearsed and very well narrated. The interweaving of their stories took us through their wartime experiences, including learning to drive a tractor and plough a field (with and without glasses!), discovering where milk comes from, delivering calves, meeting a future husband and going to dances with American servicemen who, as we would say today, splashed the cash. They also told of the many downsides, included long working hours for little pay, the lack of flushing toilets and the unwanted advances of farmers, to name but a few. Interspersed with their storytelling the girls sang songs from the era, unaccompanied, and produced some lovely harmonies.

There were several smaller parts integral to the stories being told and these were well played by Iain Holding Sutton and Fern McClean, both having several costume changes as befitted their characters.

The land girls costumes looked authentic. The single set was simple but perfectly adequate with farm implements of the period depicting the girls working conditions.  Lighting was good and sound effects, including the voice of Winston Churchill were excellent and well thought out.

This was a well directed and very enjoyable production which deserved a larger audience. It was though well received by those who did attend.

Thank you for inviting me and for your hospitality.

Author: Decia Ranger, 6th July 2019

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