Blue Remembered Hills

Previewed 26 April 1996, Opened 2 May 1996, Closed 20 June 1996 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre

A major stage production of Dennis Potter's drama Blue Remembered Hills in London directed by Patrick Marber.

1943, a summer’s day in the Forest of Dean and seven children play, fight and fantasize - free from the protective gaze of the adult world. But these seven-year-olds are not wholly innocent and their aggressions, fears and rivalries culminate in tragedy. Dennis Potter's moving comic drama could be the story of all our childhoods.

Originally screened by the BBC in 1979, Dennis Potter described it as 'the most straight-forward, the most apparently naturalistic play I'd done - except that it was played by adults', a dramatic device to 'truthfully measure the quakes and tremors of childhood's emotions'.

Before he died in 1994, Dennis Potter finished two new television dramas, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, which will be screened by the BBC and Channel 4 this spring.

The cast featured Matt Bardock as 'Raymond', Steve Coogan as 'Willie', Debra Gillett as 'Audrey', Robert Glenister as 'Donald', Gerard Horan as 'Peter', Nigel Lindsay as 'John', Geraldine Somerville as 'Angela' and the voice only of Michael Gambon. Directed by Patrick Marber with movement by Jane Gibson, designs by Richard Hudson, lighting by Howard Harrison, music by Paddy Cunneen and sound by Sue Patrick.

"The National Theatre offers us Blue Remembered Hills in a production by Patrick Marber that is bold, arresting, funny, painful and open to question... The most immediately striking feature of this production is Richard Hudson's design, which reimagines the idyllic scene as a sort of children's model of a farmyard, with toy trees and plastic animals... There are problems with this. For a start, whose picture of the world is it supposed to represent? Adults don't remember childhood as toyland and if children experienced it as such, there would be no need for toys... Putting childhood under the magnifying glass through the use of fully grown bodies also has the virtue of pointing up behaviour patterns that persist into adulthood. The need, for example, to humiliate a victim figure to prop up self-esteem: Robert Glenister gives a harrowing impersonation of the abused weakling. But Marber's fine cast, which includes Geraldine Somerville, Debra Gillett, Nigel Lindsay and Matt Bardock, also capture well the funny side of childhood's faultlessness, that distractibility that can turn a distraught little boy into the hero of his own cowboys and indians fantasy. With Karaoke a happy experience (so far) only for his detractors, this is a reminder of Potter at his best." The Independent

"Dennis Potter's 1979 television play famously cast adults as children, seven-year-olds squabbling, scrapping, kissing their dolls, pretending to be Spitfires (the setting is the summer holiday of 1943) and playing practical jokes on each other, the last of which goes tragically wrong. It packs a punch on the stage as well... You can see that Patrick Marber wants to lull us into thinking the play is going to be amusing, self-conscious and pantomimic, so as to make the disaster in the barn hit like a whiplash. The roar of the fire, the flames (real ones) and collapsing roof timbers are exceptionally naturalistic, and sharply different in style from the rest of the direction, where the children chase each other above the sky, and in the end are left standing up there, denying responsibility for the tragedy, while Michael Gambon's voice is heard reading, indistinctly, Housman's poem from which the title comes... In the closing moments laughter freezes, but either Marber's direction or the play itself makes the end less anguished if the catastrophe is known beforehand. I would need to see a not-so-quirky production to decide, but just possibly this is a play best seen just the once." The Times

"Few have sung the praises of Dennis Potter's posthumously-produced TV series Karaoke, but anyone who doubts his writing genius needs only travel to the Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre in London for Patrick Marber's moving production of Blue Remembered Hills. This is a stage treatment of the 1979 TV film in which adults played themselves as seven-year-olds, tobogganing through the highs and lows of childhood. Beautifully played, it will make you laugh, quite possibly cause you to shed a tear and deliver you back into the street with a glow to defeat the chilliest spring evening." The News of the World

Blue Remembered Hills in London the NT Lyttelton Theatre previewed from 26 April 1996, opened on 2 May 1996 and closed on 20 June 1996 (played in repertory)