'Blitz Bride' review

BLITZ BRIDE by Claire Spratt
United Reformed Church, Buxton. 18-20 July 2011

Another top notch offering from Planet Rabbit productions. Essentially this is the story of Clare Spratt's (the writer and artistic director of Planet Rabbit) grandparents, but it could be anyone's grandparents' story.

A mixture of pathos and comedy we meet Mrs Pattisson, her daughter Ruby who is doing essential work with the ATS and affianced to Henry, and Ruby's best friend, Nancy, already married and pregnant.

Hannah Levy's sterling performance portraying four different characters, two on stage at the same time is brilliant. Ruby is the hard working ATS girl, away from home 3 months at a time with 10 days leave and making plans for a 'small' wedding once the war is over. She didn't go into the munitions factory as her father says he didn't want her 'turning yellow!' Suddenly real life interrupts as the government announces that all single ATS women are to be posted abroad to assist the war effort. What can be done to stop Ruby being sent to the front? Enter Dad and Arthur with the only solution - make sure Ruby is not single!

Plans are put in place and with rations only allowing to cater for 30 people at a wedding Ruby is sure that she will get the quiet 'do' she wants.

Meanwhile we have the ever expanding waistline, and appetite of Nancy - who with startling naivety is looking forward to the arrival of her first born. The baby duly arrives with hilarious accompaniment. As always Fiona Organ is totally believable in her character, excellent! The innocence and simplicity of Nancy's life with her work at the munitions factory, calling in to see Mrs Pattisson, eating her out of house and home, making plans for her best friend's wedding, and her complete ignorance of childbirth are both touching and hilarious.

However, star billing must go to Carol Ann Dunne. Carol stepped in at the last minute and had only rehearsed with the other cast members 3 times and apart from a hiccough early on, no one would ever have known. 'Mrs Pattisson' is on stage just about the whole of the time, her comic timing and portrayal of the no nonsense but good hearted (how many guests end up being invited to Ruby's 'quiet wedding'?) war time woman is terrific. Well done!

Of course special mention should be made of Reginald Bentley-Forbes for his amazing portrayal of the depressed dog Rover! And what of Frank?

Even if the sun is cracking the flags for the rest of the run, treat yourself to this production - from the tea and scones served on your arrival to the sing song at the end, plus the authentic props and costumes - the war time era is created so effortlessly.

Another winner Claire - job well done!

Linda McAlinden

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