Acclaimed playwright Potter wrote Blue Remembered Hills for television in the late 1970s, and it has since become a firm stage favourite.
Last year, this production was presented by the Southwick Players at the Barn Theatre; directors Nettie Sheridan and Gary Cook are now bringing the production to Brighton's one and only BOAT.
Why repeat the production?
Nettie: Several reasons! After the hugely successful run last year, our cast was suffering from the usual post-show blues, and none of the team wanted to let go of the characters we had crafted together. When the chance of performing at the BOAT came up, all but one of our original cast were available…
Gary: The original production won several awards for the Southwick Players at the Brighton and Hove arts Council Awards, including the Award for Excellence and "Best Actor" for Tobias Clay. The chance to move the play outdoors where it is actually set was irresistible
What is the play about?
Gary: It's a semi autobiographical piece, set in the Forest of Dean during World War II – Potters own childhood playground.
Nettie: All the characters are children, though they are played here by adults…This may sound a bit odd, and definitely is comical at first, but as the play progresses the audience forget this, and just accept that they're watching children play and pass the time unsupervised. Using adults as children allows the play to become more physical, more detailed, and in a strange way more realistic.
So it's fundamentally a comedy?
Gary: (Laughs) No. Though some elements are hysterically funny - our actors have been wonderful in "being" children rather than "playing" children, and children are really comical to watch and listen to, but the play really is a deeply affecting tragedy, and touches on many aspects of thoughtless behaviour.
Nettie: Bullying specifically. Not necessarily malicious, just thoughtless - although it's set in WW2, the messages still resonate today. It"s definitely not a comedy.
Gary: the genius of Potters script is that he covers so many aspects of adult life mirrored through the children's play…
Nettie: No adult characters appear in the play, but their influence - benign, indifferent, abusive or inspiring - is reflected through the children.
Gary: The wartime country setting means that the kids are totally unsupervised, free - their fathers are absent from their lives.
What were the challenges of staging the play?
Nettie: We are blessed by a dream cast - and we have a wonderful new member to replace the one actor unable to return. They have genuinely become a team– this is a true ensemble piece – seven friends playing on a summers afternoon. So in terms of the actors, we had no real challenge, and they took to the extra space with relish. The challenge for us as directors was to use this new space to its fullest.
Gary: The BOAT allows us to use a much larger stage. Our "children" can really run around, and this touching and tragic story works well on a much larger canvas. We've had to do quite a bit of adjustment to the set, but it"s all worked out very well.
Why should we come and see it?
Nettie: The outdoor auditorium at the BOAT is brilliant for audiences - bring a picnic along and enjoy a summer evenings quality theatre, outdoors in a beautiful space.
Doors open an hour before the show starts, its just a lovely social evening.
Blue Remembered Hills plays at the Brighton Open Air Theatre from 19th to 22nd of July, 6.30 for 7.30. Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions) from www.brightonopenairtheatre.co.uk or cash only on the door.