Tudor Players’ Carrie’s War – Library Theatre, 13 June 2023

Review by Claire Taranaski.

Although Tudor Players is best known among its fans for bringing high quality comedy plays to the Library Theatre stage, I first fell in love with the company six years ago (thank you programme for reminding me) with their superb adaption of Goodnight Mister Tom, so I was delighted to escape the summer heat to see their latest adaption of a much loved wartime children’s classic Carrie’s War, which although I haven’t read the book (I must) was even better.

The stand out performances of the night came from Hannah Fagan as the show’s namesake Carrie, who captured the character’s innocent, caring and protectiveness, and 12 year old Connor Hibbert who played Nick with a childlike glee and carefreeness. The natural chemistry between the two actors was lovely to see both in the flashback as sister and brother and 30 years later as mother and son and they stood their acted ground around the company’s more established cast. I look forward to seeing what these two do next as they continue to grow and develop as actors.

The other truly stand out performance of the night came from Tommy Jones, in his debut role for Tudor Players, as Mr Johnny. It’s hard to portray learning disabilities without resulting to stereotypes and exaggerations but Tommy’s performance was faultless and natural, giving the audience an insight into learning disabilities and people’s reactions to them and, like all of the cast, making his character likeable and leaving us hoping he has a happy ending.

Other cast members who deserve a mention include Phil Gascoyne as god-fearing Welsh councillor Mr Evans (if I didn’t know otherwise I would have thought he was Welsh through and through); Charlie Gascoyne-Thompson as Auntie Lou, one of the eldest characters I have seen her portray with her maternal instinct shining through and providing one of the most beautiful moments of the night when she slowed dance with GI Major Harper played by John Moran; Andrea Howard as Mrs Gotobed who lovely brought to life the elderly sister with the well earned speak your mind and nostalgia for the past that a lifetime of love and happiness should earn you; and Rob Jex as Albert Sandwich, the friend we would all want by our side if we were evacuated. Special praise most also go to Edwina Gascoyne as Hepzibah Green, who is a play of Welsh voices perfected the Norfolk accent, was a beautiful storyteller and displayed her wonderful singing voice in the church scene.

Having seen the National Theatre adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane recently at the Lyceum, lots of comparisons can be made between the two, with Tudor Players’ cast performances up there with them and the staging, lighting and sound (thanks to Hansel D’Roza and Kevin Chambers) and the direction of Rod Duncan creating a stunning atmosphere and directing the audience through a flashback to a village where all is not what it seems told through the eyes of a now adult revisiting their past.

All in all this is an excellent adaption that will appeal to fans of Nina Bawden’s novel, adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, those who recently saw the above mentioned Neil Gaiman production and theatre fans in general, though be warned like me you might have the 1940s music in your head all day the next day. Tudor Players we love your comedy productions but will be delighted if you continue to impress us with drama like this too.

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