Theatre Review – Carrie’s War

Oct 11 2010 | By More

* * * *

Sarah Edwardson as Carrie and Brigit Forsyth as Mrs Gotobed. Photo © Keith Pattison

King’s Theatre
By Thom Dibdin

The stage adaptation of Nina Bawden’s much-loved tale of WW2 evacuees in South Wales arrives at the King’s Theatre in good  form with director Andrew Loudon always letting the characters carry the play.

Returning to the role she took in the show’s West End run, Sarah Edwardson is excellent as Carrie Willow, the little girl who has to be terribly grown-up when she and her younger brother Nick are evacuated.

Edwardson creates a real sense of the morality of the time as she tries to do the right thing, keeping James Byng’s naughty wee Nick in line and never mocking Antony Eden’s grumpy, clever and viciously truthful fellow evacuee, Albert Sandwich, about his unfortunate name.

Carrie’s understanding of the surface pleasantries of the adult world allows the children safe passage into the home of domineering, vicious old Mr Evans, cared for by his long-suffering youngest sister, known to the children as Auntie Lou. Evans is given no less of a cartoon creation than he deserves by Sion Tudor Owen, complete with sookie breath and clacking teeth, while Hannah Waterman’s Auntie Lou is credible in her failure to get out from under her domineering brother’s thumb.

Yet it is Carrie’s lack of appreciation for grown-up’s deceptions which gives Nick the edge when they leave the Evans household to visit the creepy old farm at Druids Bottom, where their estranged elder sister, Mrs Gotobed, is dying, and Albert is lodged, under the care of the genial Hepzibah.

There’s one bit of rather tawdry hokum – concerning the early appearances of Brigit Forsyth’s excellent Mrs Gotobed – but mostly this makes good use of the big set that crowds the stage.

There’s space for a Welsh choir to sing the hymns of the Valleys, commenting with complete irony on the selfish nature of Mr Evan while  he is being scandalised by yet another piece of perfectly upright behaviour from his sister. Yet it can move quickly and easily to Druids Bottom, where piety and repression is replaced by freedom and understanding, and where it is Carrie’s personal battle to learn to differentiate between the two sets of values.

A solid and dependable production with some good performances from its star turns. It touches the depths of Bawdens original while creating a strong evening’s entertainment.

Thom Dibdin

King’s Theatre run ends Saturday 9 October.

Tour continues to:

19 – 23 October:
0844 871 7651

1 – 6 November:
WORTHING Connaught 01903 206 206

9 – 13 November:
CARDIFF New Theatre 029 2087 8889

16 – 20 November:
GLASGOW Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647

23 – 27 November:
BELFAST  Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919

An edited version of this review first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News.


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