Yesterday I attended the matinee performance of ‘Carrie’s War’ at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, presented by the Apollo Theatre Company.
As I sat in my seat I was pleased to see such a great turn out, with an almost full audience, and I found myself longing to go to a War-time party just so I could continue listening to the classic songs that filled the theatre.
I had heard of ‘Carrie’s War’ before but had no idea what to expect. I expected it to be a gritty piece about evacuation and the hard ships that Britain encountered; instead it was a nice story set in the Welsh countryside where Carrie and her brother are sent away. Pure escapism.
The plot line follows the brother and sister as they make new friends, learn the legends of the countryside, battle with their uptight carer, Mr Evans, and come to terms with death for the first time.
The characters were all a bit one dimensional (by no fault of the actors, but due to it being a children’s novel and them being stock characters) and it was clear what was going to happen, plot-wise, as it went on, but this made it all a bit of a relief, in a way. I wasn’t left anxious that a terrible twist was going to happen; I felt like all the beloved characters were safe in their destinies.
There were lovely performances all round from the cast, delighting us with humour and tugging at our heart strings with their trials.
Notably, Nigel Munson, who played Mr Jonny Gotobed, offered a sensitive and believable portrayal of the young man with disabilities. At no point did his acting seem like a play-for-laughs, but was wonderfully innocent and lovable, leaving us heartbroken when he is mocked during Act 2 by Matthew Curnier’s Frederick Evans. Matthew Curnier showcased his talent for accents throughout the show multi-rolling as several key characters to the plot.
Amy Hamlem, a local Guildford girl, did well leading the show as Carrie Willow; the young girl who tries to please everyone but makes naïve choices that lead to devastating consequences.
I may be slightly biased as I have trained with him, but Andy Owens, who played Nick Willow and Carrie’s future son, was delightful as the straight talking, gluttonous young boy that provides naughty fun throughout the show. His cheeky comic timing paired with his youthful innocence make him one of the stand out performances of the show.
Other memorable performances came from Nova Skipp as kind-hearted Auntie Lou, Amanda Reed as the ethereal Hepzibah Green and Ben Riddle as a wonderfully acted Albert Sandwhich. John Griffiths did a great job as the cruel shop keeper, Mr Evans, showing a vulnerable edge that actually made me feel very sad for him at the end of the show as he is left alone.
The show has now finished its run in Guildford and is touring until July, go to www.apollotheatrecompany.com to see where the upcoming dates are. It is an enjoyable show that people of any age will like; it may be especially good for introducing children to the history of the war in a lighter manner than the history books will tell you.
However, the main thing that I learnt from seeing this show was not about the hardships of the evacuees but the hardships of a Saturday matinee. Remind me never to watch a matinee performance in a local theatre again. The number of children rocking in their squeaky chairs was almost enough to make me start World War 3…