Tag Archives: Second World War

“You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy” by Caroline Horton

at Warwick Arts Centre, Thursday 10th March 2011

One of the best things that can happen for a writer is surely to find a real life story which can be adapted to a stage play. It must be even better when you are able to speak to those involved. It must certainly be a godsend for Caroline Horton, then, that her own grandmother had her own extraordinary story, which became the basis for You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy, a beautifully touching tale of how one woman struggled on during the Second World War away from her fiancée.

The piece begins with Horton entering the stage, gabbling in French with four suitcases in hand. She notices us, makes a few jokes about English and queueing and we’re hooked. She begins her fascinating story, telling us what brings her to the Gard du Nord on this day in January 1945. It is a story of love and loss and is all the more poignant considering these events bought the extraordinarily Caroline Horton into being. Some of the most moving moments are seen at the end of the show as we see images of Horton and Chrissy together, including voice-overs from our hero herself. This is a story that lives in the heart of the writer.

Horton’s script, although based in real interviews and a true story, is almost poetic in its telling. She claims she “never exaggerates”, but we know a lot of what is told is embellishment, as happens with all story-telling. The text is carefully nuanced, as the narrator gets her idioms mixed up, expressing how she felt like “the knees of the bees” and “a hot cat on a roof”. There are a few jokes for the history buffs in the audience and a basic understanding if French is required to understand some lines, but this simply adds to the reward when we work out what is being said.

The four suitcases and handbag act as the only set, each containing within them intricately constructed miniatures and objects from Chrissy’s life in order to aid our understanding. Inside one is hidden a charming 3D pop up of Paris which lights up to display the city at night. Touches like this serve to make the show even more touching and we see briefly inside the head of Chrissy; how she sees the world during the war is far different from how the media has portrayed it to us.

Although You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy is directed by Omar Elerian and Daniel Goldman, the show is undoubtedly Horton’s. She takes us on a journey and displays an alluring erratic tendency which it is hard to divert our attention from. Her cheeky smile, glowing eyes and eccentric energy make the character unbelievably human. One wonders whether this performance would be as effective without the family links, and although it wouldn’t be quite as moving, it would still nonetheless be a superb piece of theatre.

“After The Dance” by Terence Rattigan

at the Lyttelton Theatre, Thursday 17th June 2010

After The Dance is often considered to be one of Terence Rattigan’s ‘lost’ plays, having only seen one London run in 1939, but its revival here comes at a somewhat pertinent time. The original run was cut short by the Second World War, but the tension of the coming storm can be seen clearly throughout. Thea Sharrock’s remarkable revival of the play at is at once moving and thought-provoking.

Admittedly, the idea of going to see a ‘well-made’ play is not a notion that necessarily fills one with an overwhelming excitement. The plot of After The Dance is heavily contrived and predictable, and yet this seems only to add to the excitement felt as we experience it. David and Joan Scott-Fowler, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Nancy Carroll respectively, are of an age that remembers the first war but were not old enough to partake in any action. They pretend to be “bright young” people, but continue to wallow in their sorrows without noticing they have any. When the young Helen Banner (the waif-like Faye Castelow) arrives, she diverts David’s attention away from his wife and his alcoholism and their love affair drives the play towards its horrific conclusion.

Throughout, we see a generation that has lost touch with reality and live in a fantasy world, only caring for themselves. As today, we see people who have not experienced war and yet seem to be running the country, becoming complacent and not understand the damage they are doing as we hurtle headlong towards what is inevitably a tragic ending. Within the play, we see the two sides of youth. Helen is naïve, short-sighted and stubborn, not understanding the consequences of youth. Whilst she represents an idealised version of youth for older generations, Peter Scott-Fowler (David’s cousin) is hardworking, astute and seems to hold hopes for the future. The sooner older generations realise that being “a bore” is not a bad thing, the quicker we will resolve our problems.

Although Rattigan’s script is strong, the cast are the catalyst through which the emotions of the piece are carried. Cumberbatch looms over his cast members, and his piercing gaze longs for sympathy yet cannot help but cause a hatred of this dogmatic character. Carroll’s Joan is tender but shares the obstinacy of her husband. In Act Two she truly excels and solicits our attention throughout. Most astonishing is Adrian Scarborough as the Scott-Fowler’s drunken lodger, proving himself to be one of our greatest comic actors. Scarborough carries most of the laughs in the play but engenders a great humility in latter scenes, giving us the necessary compassion which his peers seem to lack.

Hildegard Bechtler’s grandiose set perfectly encapsulates the ostentation of the between-wars generation and can be both eerily spacious and buoyantly welcoming. Mark Henderson’s lighting is deceptively simple and yet does a lot to set the mood of each scene. We are constantly reminded that excess does not necessarily lead to a happy life.

Sharrock’s direction perfectly captures what we imagine to be Rattigan’s initial vision and there is no doubt that the playwright was on top form while writing this play. The frustration of youth is mirrored throughout and the impending doom always present. This production of After The Dance is beautifully created and it does not fail to move. Let us hope, therefore, that it is not doomed to the same fate that the original run was. If Rattigan has taught us anything, it is that we must learn from our past mistakes.