Violet, so certain and Leonard, so trepidatious, are young and in love when we first meet them on the night of the Baedeker raid on Bath in 1942. This poignant tale of pragmatic pathos follows the impact of war and separation through the next sixty years of these passionate people and their ‘ordinary’ lives.
Cast: Lora Bradleigh and Lewis Schaefer Prologue: Richard James, Anastasia Spence, Jesse James Lamb, Jadee Michael and Nikita Eve-Mansfield.
Directed by Ria Milton
“This is a gem of a piece, delightful, insightful, beautifully simple, with dialogue that allows you to read so much into what is not said. When I first read this script I fell head over heels for both protagonists and have been visualising it ever since. I cannot wait to be exploring them fully with my cast. It’s my first solo directorship, come with me, imaging what we can do.”
“Nick Payne’stwo-hander allows us to eavesdrop on three brief encounters between Leonard and Violet, spanning six decades. Beginning in 1942 – an illicit night in the Hotel Regina before he goesunwillingly off to war – then 21 years later – a painfullyawkward meeting in a Bath park – and finally in the 21stcentury – in Leonard’s lonely Luton home.
These are carefully drawn characters, ordinary people leading lives superficially banal but with emotional hinterlands they struggle to express. Laura Bradley and Lewis Schaefer give performances of exceptional subtlety and understated sentiment. They wisely avoid caricature as they age; Violet’s chatter about washing machines and Wimpy Bars places her in the 60s in middle age, while Leonard’s restless hands and lips movingly suggest the ailing octogenarian.
Ria Milton’s production is near flawless, with sound and light, music [Isaac Dunn the talented cocktail pianist] and staging combining to excellent effect. The only criticism, the sight-lines, especially when the actors were sitting on the bed/bench/sofa.
And there’s a bonus – a seamless prologue, with chorus dressed for the 40s, giving us a mixture of the tragically appropriate When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone byGalway Kinnell and some Shakespeare sonnets,Leonard’s wartime gift to Violet. Some of the most effective being those audaciously delivered by two or three actors: Sonnet 36 as a duo or Sonnet 106 a la Andrews Sisters.
A wordless epilogue, too – the chorus leaves the stage, the audience leaves the auditorium, while Leonard and Violet linger with the book of sonnets and a lifetime not shared …”
At The Old Court Theatre on 17th May 2017
‘One Day When We Were Young’, a play about Violet and Leonard told over a 60 year period. I can see why Ria Milton the director felt so warmly for the piece and explained her delight in the programme! I really loved the simplicity of the writing, but the way the cast members took to their roles was great.
Laura Bradley played Violet, and Lewis Schaefer played Leonard. Both cast members had made clear choices about their characters from the drama at the beginning when bombs start falling around the hotel they are in, to the final moving moments at the end of the piece where Violet starts to play, (ably assisted by Isaac Dunn) ‘their’ song and can’t manage it. I really believed the way that these two felt about each other, and although time had passed, they still had a connection. Lewis did a particularly good job of changing his physicality, tone of voice and whole demeanour as he aged throughout the piece. Laura had some tough moments to portray, particularly when Violet is talking about why she didn’t wait for Leonard. Laura handled these moments really well, and we felt for her character.
The stage was used well, the scenery changed depending on which scene we were in; and I really liked the costume change transitions. I did struggle to see some of the action, as so much of it took place sitting down on the lower level stage, it was a little frustrating to be able to see 4 people not involved in the action on a higher stage when I was missing the actual play lower down. The entrance and exit which was used most frequently in the final scene also detracted slightly from the rest of the setting.
The lighting worked well for the piece, as did the sound. The piano was a particularly fantastic addition to the play with a very talented pianist being showcased. The costumes looked good throughout, and the props were all utilised well.
I didn’t enjoy the prologue I’m afraid. I found a lot of the words difficult to hear clearly sometimes due to volume, sometimes due to bad diction which meant it was hard to follow. I felt this was an unnecessary addition to a lovely play; although of course it gave some others the opportunity to be involved rather than just change the scenes! It was a nice idea, and it did feel like the performers connected with what they were saying
The play overall was wonderful to watch, a great play with talented performers.
To contact the Director about this play, e-mail Ria Milton at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.