The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
March 5, 6, 7 & 8, 2003.
The Accrington Pals
by Peter Whelan
Lex Hills – May
Ryan Lainchbury – Tom
Mark Best – Ralph
Serena Brand – Eva
Zoë Edden – Sarah
Theresa Furr – Bertha
Kate Hills – Annie
David Bickers – Arthur
Stuart Isaac – Reggie
Simon Birks – CSM Rivers
Assistant to the Director – Kevin Isaac
Stage Manager – David Comber
Lighting Design – Mike Medway
Lighting Technician – Chris Grey
Sound Design & Operation – Simon Snelling
Technical Stage Management – John Garland
Technical Stage Management – Kevin Isaac
Technical Stage Management – Marc Lewis
Set building – David Comber
Set building – Dave Collis
Set building – Brian Box
Set building – Mike Davy
Set building – Marc Lewis
Set Painting – Sheila Neesham
Set Painting – Frances Thorne
Set Painting – Judith Berrill
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Properties – Margaret Davy
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Margaret Pierce
Press & Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Press & Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Press & Publicity – Judith Berrill
Box Office – Margaret Murrell
Front of House Co-ordinator – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: The Accrington Pals
This moving and powerful play takes its title from the seven hundred strong battalion from Accrington Lancs, which marched off optimistically to join Kitchener’s New Army and was decimated at the battle of the Somme in 1916. Glimpses are given of the life at the front but the play’s dramatic power lies in the linking of the public event to the private lives of the working class wives, daughters and lovers who were left behind, living on hope and official misinformation about what was actually happening to the ‘Pals’ in France.
The play explores a whole range of emotions, humorous in parts and extremely poignant in others, and paints a picture of the changes in civilian life during wartime.
Review #1: The Accrington Pals
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: March 13 2003 issue – Leisure Scene Section – page 8
Reviewer: Jaime Hailstone
Text Header: A tender tale of going to war
Text Sub Header: …was a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate price
The first casualty of war is innocence, the second is hope and the third are the generations robbed of the chance to live as they would have liked.
The Accrington Pals by Peter Whelan brought the effects of World War 1 on the soldiers and their loved ones left behind vividly to life at the Barn theatre, Southwick, last week by the Wick theatre Company. Kate Browning’s directorial debut made for a moving and thought provoking evening, with some unforgettable performances.
In September 1914, 1100 men in Accrington volunteered to form the 11th East Lancashire regiment, which became known as The Accrington Pals. Many more local men were turned away. On July 1st, 1916, between 7.30am and 8am, 584 out of 720 Pals who went over the top at the Somme were killed, wounded or missing in action …
No play can ever come close to depicting the actual horrors of war and its terrible consequences, yet the Wick production handled the subject matter with dignity. The cast was superb, reflecting the shift in mood from hope to despair.
Particular mention should go to the technicians for the way slides, audio effects and lighting were used on stage to enhance the drama.
The Accrington Pals really was a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate price.
Review #2: The Accrington Pals
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: Unknown
Peter Whelan’s play movingly tells the story of the men of Accrington who rushed to volunteer for service during the First World War and the effect it had on the women left behind. t is a tale that combines the horrors of war – the battlefield scenes being most realistically achieved – with two doomed love affairs. Despite the seriousness of its subject the evening provided a great deal of humour, mainly from the neighbours, Sarah and Bertha.
The play was unknown to me and I therefore came to the theatre with no expectations other than of seeing a production of the usual standard that I have come to expect from this company. Were my expectations met? Sadly, not fully. Whist the production was of a high standard it fell short of being a great one such as Kindertransport. The over-riding fault lay with the lack of vocal projection. There were many occasions when words were indistinct, as in the case of the young Stuart Isaac in his final scene with May. Up to this point he had turned in a fine performance. The problem of audibility was not helped, at times, by the cast having to compete with the sound effects.
The simplistic set and the skilful use of projected slides was most effective but I felt the production lost something by being under-lit on a number of occasions. Whilst I understood the need for this and for the misty effect to create ‘atmosphere’ it did result in the loss of facial expressions and also distanced the audience from the action, a lot of which took place at the rear of the stage, and prevented us from being drawn into the play. It might have been better to stage it upon the floor of the theatre.
The strength of the Wick Theatre’s production lay with the three excellent performances from the actresses playing May, Eva, and Sarah. Lex Hills [May] managed to capture the anguish of the older woman’s love for the younger Tom and her stubborn refusal to compromise. I particularly liked the interplay between her and Serena Brand [Eva]. There was a very touching scene between them where May, ignorant of sexual matters seeks guidance from the younger but experienced girl. Serena’s performance truly had the essence of Eva – a warm, loving and honest young girl – and contributed greatly to the play’s humour, as did the last of the trio, Zoë Edden, as Sarah. Zoë bringing with her a great comic talent that we saw in Dancing at Lughnasa.
They were well supported by the rest of the company with perhaps, the male acting honours going to Mark Best as Ralph, contrasting his jack-in-lad behaviour with the tender love he felt for Eva.