The cast of six frequently change roles and swap in and out of one another’s characters, regardless of sex, costume or context. This demonstrates some impressive acting skills, but at times was a little confusing (e.g. is he the mother now?!). Correspondingly, the stage props are used, reused and transformed ingeniously: a table quickly becomes a bookshelf, a stepladder an upright bed. Various items (a basket, a wheel, an accordion) hang from the ceiling hooked on long wires and are seamlessly picked up and returned throughout the performance.
With all these whizzy prop transformations and rapid character changes coupled with Lee’s non-linear storyline, there was a busyness to the production which left me a bit exhausted. I felt as though the cast were more concerned with their fancy choreography than they were committed to taking me away to the hazy ambling of Laurie Lee’s childhood recollections. I was imagining being whisked away to a cider-infused past where life was tackled at a slower, perhaps slightly drunk, pace.
The music was composed by cast-member TJ Holmes and performed by himself and his colleagues (again frequently interchanging their instruments and voices), and did a decent job of providing a much appreciated emotional layer to the production. Holmes’ pieces are pleasantly influenced by English folk music and the interpretation of Ivor Novello’s Keep the Home Fires Burning was gorgeous.
In all, I was very impressed by the use of props and full-on theatricals but I wasn’t prompted to consider my own childhood memories and I don’t think I’m any closer to understanding Laurie Lee’s. Though that could well be my fault for having not read the book.