At Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St. Toronto, Ont.
Written by Dennis Potter
Directed, designed and choreographed by Nicole Wilson
Lighting by Steve Vargo
Cast: Nicola Atkinson
Good Old Neon Theatre has presented another production that is challenging, provocative and thought-provoking in these emotional times.
Blue Remembered Hills is based on British writer Dennis Potter’s 1979 television drama that takes place in England in 1943. A group of seven-year-old children is playing in a forest. They are played by adults.
Director Nicole Wilson takes this notion and sets it on its ear. To quote from the press information: “Good Old Neon has taken the play out of its historical setting and turned it into an expressionistic fever dream, a speculation on the nature of human interaction in a world torn apart by hunger, civil strife, and the terrifying impulses that give rise to Trumpism.” Nicole Wilson goes further: “Blue Remembered Hills is a broken play. It is a mostly plotless evening spent in the company of seven people as they enact various forms of casual, almost accidental cruelty on each other; they claim to be children but they behave as adults (or is that adults behave as children?)….The brokenness of Blue Remembered Hills is also where the opportunity for magic lies—by incorporating an abstracted, physical language that hums just beneath the surface of the spoken text, we have found a play much richer than a simple reading of the script can yield. These moments—we called them “outbursts” in rehearsal—are not symbols of feeling but expressions of inner states, states which are beyond simple language, which lines of dialogue cannot articulate.”
It makes for an intriguing evening in the theatre with a daring company of actors and their adventurous director.
The audience fills into a brightly lit, white room. The cast is dressed in white. Their faces are whitened in various ways. Sometimes the whole face is whitened; sometimes half the face. In any case it’s haunting.
While they ‘act’ as seven-year-old children with a rudimentary grasp of language with which to express themselves, their behaviour suggests something more innate. These kids are cruel, mean, bullying, cowering, hunted and trapped. They vary on who is the bully and who is the bullied. As one person stands up to a bully another cowers in a corner. Matters build in emotional intensity until its gripping conclusion. These children seem to carry on perhaps a behaviour they learned from adults, or perhaps children are naturally inclined to cruelty.
At times it was like watching a dramatization of Lord of the Flies William Golding’s classic novel of a group of British school boys stranded on an island who then form groups based on class and vulnerability, and treat each other accordingly. It builds to a terrifying conclusion.
With Blue Remembered Hills it’s interesting to see how director Nicole Wilson stages and directs her committed cast of seven to establish the shifting power struggles and the constant maneuvering to get the upper hand. It is both fascinating and terrifying. And references to Muslims certainly put us in the age of Trump.
Good Old Neon Theatre produces theatre that reflects the world we live in—shattering, compelling and provocative.
Good Old Neon Theatre presents:
Opened: Feb. 13, 2017.
Closes: Feb. 24, 2017.
Cast: 7; 5 men, 2 women
Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.