The Accrington Pals

Performance Review

This powerful play written by Peter Whelan was well received at Jubilee Hall across three nights and a matinee in April. The evening performances were accompanied by an appropriate Lancashire Hotpot supper, organised by Ann Pollard, prepared by Megabite Catering.

The production was directed by Andy Capjon who performed miracles in getting this challenging play on the stage and coping with last-minute cast changes and stage management issues.

The play explores the home lives, loves and front-line experiences of a battalion of young soldiers during the Great War, who enlisted together, fought together and sadly died together as comrades. Although the two-act drama is set during one the bloodiest armed conflicts of modern times, it is not without a good deal of humor, wit and an earthy working-class vulgarity, including a drunken girls only party. There's the famous galvanised bath scene dynamically and comically performed by Andy Holmes as Ralph, the brash lover of Eva.

The central character, May, a strong minded independent Lancashire lass, was confidently played by Hannah Rogers - a big part and a big performance. She clashes with her boyfriend, Tom, over his enlisting with his pals in what May sees as a blind herd-following act. Tom, very ably played by Gareth Barton, has his own unusual idealistic collective philosophy, but is labelled a dreamer by May.

The other emsemble of young women within May's social circle were successfully portrayed by Emma Tuohy (Bertha) and Kelly Nicholas (Eva) with Christine Garvey who turned in another sterling performance as the plain speaking Sarah. Jan Tunley perfectly embodied the harridan son-beating mother who breaks down on the news of her husbands death and Ben Viney did really well as the brow-beaten Reggie whio becomes his mother's only remaining support.

Bob Taylor's character acting talent was at its best in his sympathetic portrayal of Boggis, the lay-preaching soldier who takes his pigeon with him to the front. The avuncular Company Sergeant Major Rivers (played by Alan Curtis) has seen it all and tries to protect his charges, both civilian and military, but sadly his experience counts for nothing against the relentless war machine.

As hope for the future, we are left with the love and comradeship of the soldiers as demonstrated by Rivers and the comradeship of human affection which enables May and her friends to begin new, independent lives.

Making his debut with the players, pianist Paul Arkwright sensitively accompanied Eva's emotional performance of a very poignant patriotic song after the Pals had gone over the top.

Chris Tyrrell helped with set construction, along with Andy Capjon, Paul Styles and Bob Taylor. Sian Man, returning after a long absence, painted the simplistic but effective scenery.

Paul Styles provided incredible sound effects and along with his assistant Spyke Stainton, produced some clever lighting.

Patti Reed was on make-up as well as providing off stage voices along with Margaret Curtis and Alf Rogers.

The cast performed their own scene changes under eerie half-light conditions while the curtains remained open.

Indispensable front-of-house duties were performed by June and Tony Bradshaw, Margaret Curtis, Alf and Hannah Rogers, Mary Styles and Moira Watts.  

The performance incurred considerably more expenses than usual, but, when combined with the revenue from the previous Variety Show, the Jubilee Players were able to make a donation of £200 to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen & Families Association (SSAFA Forces Help).