Sunday, May 06, 2012


Chappel and Wakes Colne


The restored Victorian Goods Shed at Chappel is not an ideal theatre space: no proper blackout, draughty, with noisy heaters never really beating the chill.

But what an evocative setting for this what-if World War II tale; a guard's waggon stage left, and over our heads, an old station clock, relentlessly, defiantly ticking away the time [our time, not Jerry's alien daylight saving].

Private Resistance tells the story of the Auxiliary Units, small bands of local men [and boys] who would harass the foe from within, attacking from behind the lines, keeping Britain fighting while we waited for the Yanks to finish off Pacific business and ride to our rescue.

The railway plays a key role in the story: the "only real noise" to ruffle this rural idyll twenty miles north of Chelmsford, transporting "liberated" art works and Jewish families, and the focus of the sabotage for the May Day Uprising of 1943. What would the Suffolk maquis have made of the viaduct just up the line …

This is my third look at Ivan Cutting's Home Front alternative history. The ensemble playing is, if anything, still stronger, with glances and half-formed sentences conveying so much. And the second half, which seemed a little wordy at Wivenhoe, now seems an intriguing exploration of the nature of occupation, of collaboration, of gender roles and family ties. The final sequence, with the only survivor looking back at those dark, dangerous days, is a moving coda to this story of a very British guerilla war.

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