Oct/Nov 2014

We Happy Few
by Imogen Stubbs



Directed by
Jonathan Scripps


An amusing, often touching, ensemble piece
Michael Gray



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Inspired by a true story, We Happy Few follows the adventures of a small group of women who come together to form a 'girls only' theatre company to take-the plays of Shakespeare around a culture-starved Britain during World War II.

While the men are fighting Hitler and the bombs are blitzing London, they embark on a crazy adventure, crammed into their battered 1920s Rolls-Royce.  Separately and together they are forced to discover what life is like without men, and, eventually, how they must survive when they have only each other.



The play starts in a flashback with Hetty and Flora recalling the strart of the Artemis Players with a group of actors in a pageant.  Neville Chamberlain announces that Britain is at war and Jewish refugees Joseph and Gertrude Rosenberg arrive from Germany.



Hetty and Flora decide to start an all-women acting company to bring Shakespeare to the people of Britain now that the theatres are dark.  Hetty reads a letter she has written to her son Crispian who has gone to war.  Flora is phoning to arrange auditions.



Auditions are going badly until Rosalind arrives as Shylock complete with a monstrous prosthetic nose.  She has just left RADA and joins the group.



Hetty meets her assembled company and tells them they will be known as the Artemis players after the goddess.  She and Flora explain what is required of them.  Joseph joins as stage manager.



Joseph tells Ivy how he and his mother escaped from Germany after Kristallnacht.  His father, a doctor, has stayed behind to look after those suffering.



Hetty reads another letter to Crispian that recounts her experiences on stage.  She compares it with going into battle and feels ashamed by the comparison.



Hetty and Flora persuade Ivy to join them on stage rather than be their cook and tea maker.  They have had enough of her whelk sandwiches.



The group is one short and Rosalind suggests her mother Helen.  She has just been fired by the BBC for being drunk on Children's Hour so is available.  She arrives, still drunk, and is not interested but the others persuade her to stay.



Jocelyn Thripp joins the group late as she has been laid up with a gammy leg.  She limps on to rehearse first Murderer in Macbeth.



The group finally play Macbeth in the hall of the Globe public house after an introduction by the Mayor who is sure that the show "will be on a par with last year's Puss in Boots."



Hetty and Rosalind as Macbeth and Macduff carry out a superbly dextrous sword fight.



The cast come offstage to cheering applause.  Reggie (Flora's cousin) who is filming them says that a man from the Ministry who was in the audience, was so impressed that he will reccommend that the Artemis Players receive approval, endorsement and money.



It is September 1944 and the Artemis Players have travelled thousands of miles across Britain bringing Shakespeare to the people.  They now prepare for Romeo and Juliet.



Ivy has received a letter from Joseph.  In it he asks her to marry him but Ivy is fearful that Gertrude will never agree as she is not Jewish.  The others tell her that she should seize the opportunity.



Suddenly Joseph appears on a one-night pass to see Ivy.  He is tongue-tied with her so Ivy gives him her answer - Yes.  The others cheer and all except Hetty and Flora go to a nearby dance hall to celebrate.



Flora tells the story of her brother Toby.  After years of bullying by his father he is told he will be going to army school to toughen him up.  Toby takes his father's gun, goes outside and shoots himself.



Ivy announces that she has to leave the group as she is pregnant with Joseph's child.  Ivy is upset that she has messed everything up so Hetty tells her about her son Crispian who had been adopted but who had sought her out just before the war began.



Rosalind has finally had enough of her mother's criticising and belittling of her and the others.  She has hated her life at home and wishes she had been adopted.



A doodlebug explodes nearby and Ivy goes into labour.  Despite all the efforts of the others, Ivy stops breathing and dies.  Gertrude manages to deliver the baby safely.



It is VE Day and the group perform Henry V on the Isle of Skye.  All their costumes and props have been lost when the car ferry capsized.  However, they carry on and Hetty, Charlie, Jocelyn, Flora, Rosalind and Helen give their last performance before Churchill announces that the war is over.

Cast

HETTY:
FLORA:
HELEN:
CHARLIE:
JOCELYN:
REGGIE/LEONARD/MAYOR:
GERTUDE/MAUREEN:
JOSEPH:
IVY:
ROSALIND:

Pam Hemming
Carol Parradine
Jan Ford
Lynda Shelverton
Marcia Baldry-Bryan
Rodney Foster
Judy Lee
Adam Thompson
Amanda Thompson
Sonia Lindsey-Scripps