On the 6th of February 2008, Dennis Potters wartime play ‘Blue Remembered Hills was performed to approximately 100 people at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre. As a well established theatre and production company I had very high hopes and expectations which were unexpectedly shattered by the amateur acting and ridiculous staging. Blue Remembered Hills is an intellectual play exploring a day in the life of seven young children during the war. As the performance is in ‘real time’ no non-naturalistic techniques are used to portray neither the children’s actions nor emotions. The play follows their fights, squabbles and play, and climaxes when a victimized character by the name of Donald, creates his own game of pyromania in a barn.
Potter once said “When we dream of childhood we take our present selves with us, it is not the adult world writ small; childhood is the adult world writ large” judging from this statement the main issue within the play is self explanatory… the relationship and similarities between adults and children are a lot more alike than people are led to believe. It is as if Potter is communicating the lack of understanding in our lives through his choice of adult actors.
It is through these actors that the theme of childhood innocence is lost, then regained, then lost again. Blue Remembered Hills is nationally profound for its moralistic theme that ‘Child is father of the man’: everyone grows and everyone deals with change differently as they age and mature. Fluent themes throughout the play include fear, neglect, peer pressure, social exclusion and status. The play explores how children struggle to ‘find themselves’ especially when they become ‘lost’ in their own insecurities. The most poignant childhood issue is that of the nostalgic childhood deception, where social pressure and exclusion is tremendously harmful.
In my opinion the casting choices for the play were totally absurd. The actors had terrible accents and even worse acting capabilities. For example Peter shown below who should be he most powerful and strongest actor was played by what looked to be the weakest actor in the whole performance. The actor’s body language was not as ‘strong’ as the boisterous character of Peter should be played; instead his movements were ‘airy and light’. For example during the fight scene Peter should be very controlling and his strength over Willie should be clear, however it was not: a sense of equality was portrayed through their use of movement, gesture and voice.
The actors posture was very ‘not very childlike’ throughout which emphasized that he was not a child, this ruined the whole childhood illusions. The straightened back and shoulders portrayed a fully grown adult; however it could be argued that this was a way of portraying his status. The actor’s voice was totally inappropriate: his accent repeatedly changed from welsh, to Scottish, then to American, throughout the play he remained ‘camp’ in a way that the audience see his strong characteristics become lost in a sense of the actors ‘homosexuality’. The actor Paul Merell who played Peter, often found it difficult to perform ‘subtle movements’ whilst delivering long dialogue.
Merell blended in with his fellow casts ‘drab’ acting from his fellow actors which destroyed the childlike status’ that should have been demonstrated throughout the performance. Although I believe Merell’s acting skills to have been of a very low standard he must be praised for his focus; he kept well focused throughout even when scenes went ‘pear shaped’; for example this occurred when Peter threw an apple that hit a member of the audience! Even though Merell was not suited to his character, I’m sure that half of his ‘mistakes’ were on behalf of his directing from both the producer Miriam Ayling and the director Angharad Ormond. For example at the start:
Peter who has the highest status is sat at the lowest level, whereas the weakest character of Donald is at the highest point. On the contrary however I believe Julie Chapman’s portrayal of Angela was of a very high standard: Julie Chapman totally out shone her fellow cast members by performing amazingly. Her body language constantly showed that she was playing a child|: for example she was repeatedly sucking her thumb when she was both scared and bored.
She also used effective centring; it was as if the doll was ‘ruling’ her. Chapman portrayed her character very well using both gesture and movement effectively: this resulted in her being the only cast member to actually resemble a child both physically and verbally. Chapman’s voice was of a very high pitch like that of a child; her accent was also the only actor who’s accent represented that of the West Country.
Chapman was able to incorporate her own style of acting into her character; her innocent side was showed in a similar way to Helen Mirren’s in the film: this was mainly through her facial expressions. As the actress playing Angela was quite experienced (Acted in Los Angeles Film festival) compared to her fellow cast members this showed as her experience and talent totally outshone that of her fellow actors: because of this she stood out immensely. Julie Chapman kept great focus throughout her performance and I believed this helped her portray Angela very well. There was one major production element which in my opinion was genius.