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Zo Morgan and Susannah Mayor as Audrey and Angela in Dennis Potter's 'Blue Remembered Hills' (Pic by Peter Mould

Zo Morgan and Susannah Mayor as Audrey and Angela in Dennis Potter’s ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ (Pic by Peter Mould)

‘Blue Remembered Hills’ at The Stables climbs new heights

Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, originally a TV play from the 1980s has been revived, firstly at the Ellen Terry Theatre in Smallhythe a couple of weeks ago, and now at The Stables in Hastings. It was a remarkable and moving play back then in the BBC’s ‘Play for Today’ slot, but how would our ‘non professional’ players on stage here in Hastings manage more than 30 years on? HOT’s Toby Sargent was at the first night to find out.

Blue Remembered Hills is fiendishly difficult to put on. Not because of the complexity of the story-line or the challenges of the required set, but because it tries to present an encounter between schoolchildren in the Forest of Dean during the long summer holiday of 1943 to make sophisticated points about friendship, betrayal, bullying, patriotism and latent sexual tension. Add to this the author’s stipulation that the children must be played by adults, and much of the dialogue has to be delivered in a West Country brogue, and you have a teetering tower of potential disaster for the company taking it on.

Actors have nowhere to hide

So it is very good news indeed that The Summer Theatre Company have pulled off an absolute barnstormer of a production. Under the masterful – and sublimely understated – direction of Peter Mould, the actors have nowhere to hide, thanks to the simplest of sets, the most subtle of lighting and tone, and the intimacy of The Stables’s small auditorium.

Word – and accent – perfect throughout, the seven on stage master the trick of being completely credible as adults-playing-children-pretending-to-be-adults, succeeding with a narrative movement that the audience knows will end badly for at least one of them, but remains genuinely shocking until the very end.

Truly astounding

Peter Charles Miller is truly astounding as the devious wannabe who yearns to be top dog in this strange little group, while Zo Morgan and Susannah Mayor as the two girls who tag along with the boys flip between flirtiness, cunning and perfect innocence with ease and aplomb. Vernon Reeve as Willie, the boy in every group who holds the gang together by changing his allegiance as the social winds blow, and Bill Allender as ‘Donald Duck’ the bullied outsider, also put in bravura performances. Add to this David Richardson’s touching and highly skilled portrayal of Raymond the tongue-tied fantasist, and Matt Turpin as John – the rather dull leader figure who is no match for the shocking turn of events that concludes the play – and you have a truly outstanding company putting on a play that would not be out of place in the West End.

Vintage year

So this is great stuff: funny, moving, shocking and always intriguing. Go if you get the chance. Along with earlier productions of One Man, Two Guvnors and Talking Heads, 2017 is turning into a vintage year for this rather wonderful Hastings company.

Blue Remembered Hills is on at The Stables Theatre until 12 August.

Posted 10:35 Thursday, Aug 10, 2017 In: Performance

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