Braintree Musical Society – While You Were Away
Director: David Rutter
Musical Director: Moira Frize-Williams
Performed at Braintree Arts Theatre on Friday 14th November 2014
In the foyer was a lovely display of war related items and a collage of photographs with information about local people during the First World War. In the auditorium the band were playing some familiar war time songs. The front of house staff were pleasant, and the programme was a good design with lots of information supporting the story.
The show started with a video playing of David Cameron speaking about the war on ISIS – and continued back in time to King George when the curtains opened on act one. We first met Reverend Andrew Clark and his family (Ann Furnnell and Kristina Frize-Williams). Ross Rogers portrayed the reverend well, showing his concern for his community, and the positive outlook he tried to keep through the tough times. He had a clear speaking voice and held the accent throughout. As the story continued we were introduced to various other characters, all of whom had their own story.
There were some good duets, including Good-Bye-EE, although the relationship was a little over animated rather than the subtle connection between Katy, played by Chloe Rutter and Jimmy played by Phil Thompson. A particularly enjoyed the scene on the boys birthday, with the flash back to the childhood fighting, and then the reality of being sent to war. Both boys had good stage presence, energy and I really believed their performance. The effect when the soldiers were in the background of the scene worked really well. The lighting effect with the soldiers passing along the back of the stage was really effective. There were some good clear voices and some nice singing voices from; JH Tritton (Andy Bryant), Soldier/Foreman (David Rutter), Soldier 2 ( Nathan Collins), Jimmy (Phil Thompson), Tom (Nathan Rowland), Major Taylor (Graham Everard), Windows (James Rutter), Nettie and Lucy (Chloe Rutter and Michelle Knight). It was really great that everyone got the opportunity for a specific character, meeting the various mothers and wives of the soldiers, and seeing the war through the eyes of the women left behind. The early morning and late night meetings of the special constables gave us a chance to hear more quips about the goings on in Essex during the war, and see how the war effected the older gentlemen. The moment of silence to remember the fallen ones was very powerful, and only marred by the noisy buzzing from the speakers or projector.
There were a lot of technical problems with microphones, not working or not coming on at the start of songs/lines. The lighting was used well, some of the time the cast did not quite manage to find their light though! Some of the scene changes took a little longer than they needed to. The music from the band was lovely, and general the sound levels worked well.
The script is well written, focussing on specific families and their story throughout the war. There were lots of local references, and extra bits of information about local people or events. There was a good mixture of light hearted scenes, and serious moving parts.
The ending was very moving. I really liked the shadow effect with the modern soldier and the poignant Only Remembered.