Carrie's War

Previewed 18 June 2009, Opened 24 June 2009, Closed 12 September 2009 at the Apollo Theatre London

Novel Theatre presents a stage adaptation of Nina Bawden's novel Carrie's War in London starring Prunella Scales and Kacey Ainsworth

Carrie Willow and her brother Nick are evacuees transported from London to the safety of the countryside in the 1940s. There they stay with mean Mr Evans; but there's also kind Auntie Lou, and Mr Johnny, who speaks his own language, and Hepzibah, the witch at Druid's Grove who makes a perfect apple pie, and young Albert Sandwich, who kisses Carrie on her twelfth birthday. And then there's the ancient skull with its terrifying curse...

The cast for Carrie's War in London features Prunella Scales as 'Mrs Gotobed' and Sarah Edwardson as 'Carrie' with Kacey Ainsworth as 'Auntie Lou', James Beddard as 'Mr Johnny', John Heffernan as 'Albert Sandwich', James Joyce as 'Nick', Daniel Llewellyn-Williams as 'Major Cass Harper', Sion Tudor Owen as 'Mr Evans' and Amanda Symonds as 'Hepzibah Green'. Written by Nina Bawden and adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, it is directed by Andrew Loudon with designs by Edward Lipscomb, lighting by Matthew Eagland and sound by John Leonard.

This production was previously presented by Novel Theatre at Sadler's Wells Lilian Baylis Theatre for two short season. It is adapted for the stage and directed by the same creative team behind Little Women which was seen at The Lilian Baylis Theatre in 2002 and subsequently in London's West End at The Duchess Theatre. Prunella Scales' recent West End theatre credits include Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance (Haymarket Theatre 2003). PLEASE NOTE: Suitable for adults and young people aged seven and over.

"Once upon a time - not that long ago - the best children's theatre was exactly like Emma Reeves' adaptation of Nina Bawden's Carrie's War. Clear, conventional, worthy and irredeemably bland... Reeves' account couldn't be more faithful to the novel. Much of the dialogue is replicated, as is the structure - grown-up Carrie returns to Wales with her children and the story unravels in a long flashback. But there's no dramatic topspin. Indeed, the play actually manages to lose some of the pervasive sense of guilt that dogs Carrie's life after the Welsh experience. And it relies on hackneyed theatrical shorthand - an air-raid siren and bits of wellknown radio speeches by Winston Churchill create the wartime era, and a blast of a Welsh choir make the point that we're in Wales. The performances are perfectly proficient: Prunella Scales flits in and out in a series of exquisite Edwardian evening gowns, convincingly inhabiting the twilight world of the senile Mrs Gotobed; James Beddard is very affecting in the trickiest role of simple Mr Johnny, and Sion Tudor Owen sucks his teeth and growls as the mean Mr Evans. Sarah Edwardson, John Heffernan and James Joyce play the evacuees without too much of the pigeon-toes and knock-knees that so often dog adults portraying youngsters. But a dramatisation of a novel should add a new dimension. It must cast a theatrical spell. Andrew Loudon's pedestrian production plays far too safe." The Mail on Sunday

"At their best, adaptations of novels add some welcome theatrical imagination to the mix. In contrast, Novel Theatre's uninspiring work swamps the stage in too much scenery... It's a classic formula - take the children away from their parents and let them fend for themselves. As Carrie, Sarah Edwardson lifts the occasional eyebrow as she learns to negotiate family feuds and hypocrisy, while Nick stuffs himself with all the food he can get. Emma Reeves's adaptation reaches a moving climax, but that's more to do with the quality of the book than with Andrew Loudon's production." The Sunday Times

"The play is true to the book in that it is, like life, a bit of a mess: there isn't really a beginning or an end, and a lot of the characters don't fit easily into the narrative. It is its untidiness that makes it feel honest. Edward Liscomb's cluttered set could double up for A Midsummer Night's Dream. It lends the proceedings a magical quality. The juvenile evacuees Carrie and her chum Albert Sandwich are played by adults which adds a bit of Blue Remembered Hills to the mix, too. They are billeted with Sion Tudor Owen's domineering councillor Mr Evans and his long-suffering sister Auntie Lou. The children find that they have to fight for their freedom just as surely as the servicemen on mainland Europe. Occasionally, however, they escape Mr Evans's tyranny by excursions to the home of his other sister, the dying Mrs Gotobed, played by a very Miss Haversham-like Prunella Scales. She lives with James Beddard's Mr Johnny, who has cerebral palsy. Beddard, like Adam Godley in Rain Man, knows that a handicap is a gift to an actor and his is a beautiful, affecting performance. When Mrs Gotobed passes away, Carrie says: 'In my whole life, she is the first person I have ever known die.' Albert responds: 'Well, she won't be the last. You might as well get used to it.' There is an overpowering humanity to this play, directed by Andrew Loudon, which makes it irresistible." The Sunday Telegraph

Carrie's War in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 18 June 2009, opened on 24 June 2009 and closed on 12 September 2009.