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The Greville Theatre Company

The Barn Theatre, Little Easton Manor

We Happy Few

by Imogen Stubbs

Cast

HETTY:
Pam Hemming

FLORA:
Carol Parradine

HELEN:
Jan Ford

CHARLIE:
Lynda Shelverton

JOCELYN:
Marcia Baldry-Bryan

REGGIE / LEONARD / MAYOR:
Rodney Foster

GERTUDE / MAUREEN:
Judy Lee

JOSEPH:
Adam Thompson

IVY:
Amanda Thompson

ROSALIND:
Sonia Lindsey-Scripps

The Greville Theatre performance of We happy few

Directed by Jonathan Scripps

Inspired by a true story, We Happy Few follows the adventures of a small group of women.

They 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.


"An amusing, often touching, ensemble piece"

Michael Gray

Michael Gray's Arts Blog

Greville Theatre Club at the Barn Theatre, Little Easton 24/10/2014

Imogen Stubbs, a much-loved actress, got a cold critical reception for her début as a playwright, despite a starry cast and a world-class director. What a pity, since We Happy Few has much to commend it, not least its theme, which is inherently theatrical.

Unfortunately it is long, wordy, uneven and dramatically incoherent. It tells the fascinating story of the Artemis Players – the real-life Osiris Players thinly disguised – women whose war effort is to tour Shakespeare around Britain in their “nunnery on wheels”, a 1922 Rolls. The period detail [as in Harwood's The Dresser] is evocative: hessian costumes, spirit gum and Glenn Miller. Director Jonathan Scripps and his experienced cast successfully reduce the play to manageable proportions, and produce an amusing, often touching, ensemble piece.

The powerhouse behind Artemis is the formidable Hetty Oak [Pam Hemming], secretly pining for her long-lost “darling boy” and bravely rallying her motley troops. It is she who, movingly, quotes Prospero at the end, and turns out the light as the curtain falls.

Outstanding among her rag-bag company are Carol Parradine's Flora Pelmet, the co-founder of the troupe. Her heart-rending monologue about her brother Toby is wonderfully done, though it sits awkwardly in the action. Rough-and-ready mechanic Charlie [Lynda Shelverton] has a sapphic Sarah Waters moment with Rosalind [Sonia Lindsey-Scripps], who is relentlessly quashed by her awful mother [Jan Ford] – a hard-drinking, chain-smoking faded pro – Coral Browne rather than Joan Crawford springs to mind. Ford also contributes a priceless cameo, trying out for Titus in the entertaining audition sequence. And Amanda Thompson excels as Ivy, the Brummie housemaid who's cajoled onto the Shakespearean stage.

Marcia Baldry-Bryan is Jocelyn, the stage manager, and Judy Lee is a “batty old lady” as well as a Jewish refugee in an unconvincing subplot. The simple, versatile set is dressed with swags of colourful costume and a frieze of footwear over the lintel.

“The fewer men, the greater share of honour”… There are two chaps in the cast, though: Adam Thompson as the refugee son, and Rodney Foster working hard to good comic effect in three lesser roles.

The first night audience was positive and enthusiastic – proof perhaps that, given a good play doctor, the piece could yet be the hit that Stubbs must have been hoping for.