REVIEW: White Poppies

*****

 

By Isabella Fraser

This is a show which looks at the way in which men were encouraged to go to war in WWI, the events that occurred to an underage soldier, Tom Hedley, played by Thomas Potts, during the fighting and the impact it had on him, the lives of his friends and families. A play which has clearly been written for school age children to work on, it has a large cast and is based on fact, although the actual content is a fictionalized account.

The cast of this show are young, all bar two, and have a mixed range of experience in theatre which comes across in the performance. The leads are strong, with Alison Beveridge a standout performance in particular, a convincing and highly watchable Jenny Lucas, the sweetheart of Hedley. By using young actors, there is a clear demonstration of the impact the Great War had on a generation of people – there were many young men and women affected by it. Seeing the youth of these actors in ill-fitting uniforms – which many soldiers had to deal with due to the increase of numbers – strikes home just how devastating it must have been to see young men head off to war. It is also a joy to hear the North-East of England accent on stage, a reminder how many areas of the UK were affected by the war.

The direction seems to be partly using a Brechtian style of performance, in that at times the actors are sitting on stage while others are performing in front of them and some changes are made on stage – representational. However, this does not happen for all the scenes of the play so there is a lack of clarity in the direction and it can seem confusing as to what is deliberate and what is perhaps a settling in issues, as this was reviewed on first performance due to the very short run. In the time hop scenes however, (as this play goes from past to present and back) this is extremely effective as a device to demonstrate the changes in period and the move from the family in the present reading, to the family of the past. It also brings clarity to the storyline, tying in the various threads of the people connections.

The show is unnecessarily long, and includes a 15 minute interval, which for the Fringe is unusual. With clarity in the overall direction and a trimming of the play, this would have more impact. Nonetheless, the young cast have a clear commitment to the piece and it sits as a reminder of the sacrifice that families made.

White Poppies runs at Paradise in The Vaults until August 30 @ 20:40. Running time 1 hour, 45 mins.

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