Tale shows growing up's not child's play
They might well be seasoned actors – but next week they will be nothing more than a bunch of kids.
Hull Playgoers' Society is to stage Blue Remembered Hills, one of the sharpest, and funniest, plays about the pleasures and pains of childhood.
Set in 1943, Dennis Potter's drama – first produced as a television play – follows a group of schoolchildren at play on a summer's afternoon.
Innocent it is not, though, as squabbles, and then something far darker, clouds their games.
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"The danger could be that because it is young children, it might be tempting to portray them as rather sweet or in a sentimental way," said the director, Janet Musil.
"We wanted to show that they are funny human beings but that they've got this underlying cruelty – we avoided being twee, as it has that sharp side to it."
For Janet, it has been about helping the cast – who range in age from teenagers to retirees – tap into their seven-year-old selves.
Following the start of rehearsals in February, the seven strong group – five men and two women – began a series of workshops which used everything from ball games to mimicking children's expressions to explore their roles.
"You don't realise how physical kids are – they're not restricted by anything, whereas when you get older there are creaking bones to consider," Janet said.
"There's also the social conventions – when you are an adult you don't bump into people and you don't push them out of the way as children do. They don't have any sense of personal space."
Janet saw the first screening of Potter's drama as a teenager, in 1979.
"It had quite an impact on me," she said.
"I remember thinking how amazing it was – it was quite a novel thing to use adult actors in the roles of children.
"It was very fresh and it remains a stunning play because it questions how innocent childhood really is.
"It brings back memories of that time – how happy it can be but also the cruelties."
The society's production includes a devised 20-minute introduction which shows the children as adults – "It adds an extra dimension," said Janet.
"It is a snapshot of what might have become of them."
And instead of the countryside – the TV drama was filmed in the woods and fields of Gloucestershire – Janet's production is set in an "urban playground" with a stage set which includes a tower of scaffolding.
"When I first read it, I thought it could be set anywhere – there's nothing that stops you doing that," said Janet.
"It is 1943 – the middle of the war – and because the subject matter is quite brutal in the way the children treat each other, it seemed to me you could stage it as a dark piece.
"There's a humour to it, but there's also a savagery – in my mind's eye I had this vision of it as a spare, sparse space."