Leave Hitler to me Lad

Tue 16th – Sun 21st August 2011

reviews

Bethany Knibb

at 10:02 on 19th Aug 2011

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You know just from the title that “Leave Hitler to Me, Lad” is going to be a brave, ambitious production. On hearing the name I had visions of a daring comedy, but in reality the words of the title are said by a young boy, naively dreaming of his father. Thoughtful and poignant, this piece, written and directed by Haley Cox and performed by Duck Egg theatre, presents an untold story – that of the life of the evacuee who doesn’t get to go home after the war ends.

The young protagonist Brian, played fantastically by Jonah Kensett, has lived in the Residential School for nearly his whole life and (though he does make friends there) he relies on his two rabbits, Andy and Pandy, for emotional support. Brian presumes his father is still working with the RAF following the war and that he will soon be welcomed back to Britain as a hero. Through Brian, this production makes two very distinct observations about evacuees: the first, that many of the younger children had no knowledge of their lives before evacuation and therefore being taken ‘home’ was still disruptive, and the second that some children did not get to go home at all. Duck Egg theatre call this the “lost generation of children” in the aftermath of World War II and I found this topic extremely thought-provoking. I would also contend that being based on a true story makes this piece more accessible than it might be otherwise.

The cast are agreeably unselfconscious – a cast as young as this sometimes has a tendency to hold back out of discomfort or embarrassment, but these actors do a very good job and special mention should go to Grace Mainon and Luke Wakeman who play Gladys and George respectively.

The non-linear timeline of the piece is effective, though there are a mixture of flashbacks and flashforwards, which complicates the storyline somewhat. Jumping around in time often assists the plot, however, and transitions between scenes are generally fluid.

There is little light relief in this production, and there are some shaky moments that remind you that this is an amateur production, but overall it is an interesting study of children in the 1950s and the aftereffects of war on their lives.

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Madeleine Morley

at 11:52 on 19th Aug 2011

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It's fantastic to enter the sinister Augustine Church that perches menacingly on the George IV Bridge, and see a group of young actors, so young it looks as if a few of them have barely started their GCSEs, working together passionately and enthusiastically. The show focuses on a young boy in the 50s who finds escapism in rock'n'roll and his two talking pet rabbits as he waits for his dad to return home from the war, he thinks as a hero. The story, written by the show's director Haley Cox, attempts to be a heart shattering account of the boys' gradual understanding of harsh reality, as well as reflecting the derelict and hopeless state of post-war Britain.

Whilst this story has the potential to be quite moving and powerful, especially in terms of how rock'n'roll helped to shape a new country and liberate a new kind of teenager, the actual script and production was overly sentimental and boarding on the sweetly nostalgic. For such a young cast, the actors definitely showed signs of great acting potential, and a few of them were powerfully able to convey characters far above their years. Examples are the cool and cruel school headmistress Miss Bates played by Bethany Coupland, the very warm, affectionate, kind-faced Matthew Crowe playing Mr. Bill, and the stunning performance by Sophie Roberts as the glamorous Pam.

Whilst it works for the younger characters playing younger roles, such as the bright-eyed lead Jonah Kensett who is able to hold together even during the most sentimental and difficult scenes, it does feel a bit awkward for some of the older characters. The cast and the play don't seem to match up particularly well. It might be more successful if the actors were playing in an old-fashioned renaissance children's company, eerily acting out plays by Middleton, Johnson or Webster. Instead this play invites the young actors to exuberantly sing and dance in an extremely predictable cliched 1950s way, like they're auditioning for a lead role in Glee. Maybe Glee is your thing, and maybe it's the casts too, and whilst the story at times bursts with cliché, it is exciting to see a group of enterprising young actors at the Fringe who will grow into themselves and hopefully return to the Fringe year after year.

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Comments

Louise Smithson; 22nd Aug 2011; 14:04:15

I was a little suprised to see Leave Hitler to Me Lad rated as three stars as it was unanimously my family's favourite show at the fringe this year. We all give it 5 stars. We were at a loose end so I bought our family tickets at a bargain price through the Half Price Hut, not expecting anything nearly as brilliant as this. It had us all in floods by the end, even my husband. Beautifully written and acted by some really talented kids without feeling at all 'stage school'. Visually stunning, poignant and oh so thought provoking. We all want to see it again!

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