Runnymede Drama Group performed R. C. Sherriff's classic First World War drama at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre last week. I attended Friday's show with some fellow Ottershaw thesps and we all thought it was a fantastic production; easily matching, if not exceeding RDG's usual exemplary standards.
The play concerns the lives of a group of British officers on the front line and opens in the trenches in France. Raleigh, fresh out of English public school, joins the besieged company of his friend and cricketing hero, Stanhope, and finds him dramatically changed.
John Godliman's superb set (brilliantly dressed), along with the excellent sound effects, immediately invoked the atmosphere of the trenches, ably supported by the very sympathetic lighting. Unfortunately there were some 'idiosyncrasies' with the lighting plot, though we understand that there appears to have been an electrical problem which caused sudden changes in the brightness of the lights. The special effects really brought the 2nd half to life – the falling dust and sawdust, synchronized with the sound of the shells, made one think that one could feel the bombs dropping!
Each actor was totally believable and invested their parts with great emotion, though I should say that, for me anyway, David Webb (Osborne), Jamie Frier (Raleigh) and Mark Humble were outstanding, Nick Lund was excellent and Keith Bollands totally realistic in his portrayal of grim humour in the face of awful circumstances.
It's a testament to Judith Dolley's consummate skill as a director that we were totally engrossed in this very long and wordy play and that each act flew past twice as quickly as the clock indicated. No mean feat in such a cramped space with so little scope for movement.
Finally, a word about the curtain-call: The sepia-tinged tableau was a great idea and the decision to bring in the Last Post while the audience were already applauding the performance, (which then, of course, stopped us all in our tracks), was a real coup de theatre - moving and thrilling – it even managed to silence the annoying, texting, giggling gaggle of Essex 6th-formers who occupied the 3 rows in front of us!