Review: The Firewatchers, Old Red Lion

“I have absolutely every intention of doing my bit”

The Firewatchers, a new play by young playwright Laura Stevens, offers a neat counterpoint to the jingoistic male-dominated Three Days in May, by presenting an altogether different experience of the Second World War, from the perspective of two very different women stationed for the night on an East London factory rooftop in 1942. Eastender Jean works in a munitions factory whilst Catharine is a wealthy society wife but they find themselves sharing a long night shift as firewatchers, on the alert for fires started by German incendiary devices.

But though the two women come to realise they might have more in common than they realise, Stevens does not make the mistake of drawing too close a parallel. Wartime saw great change beginning to ripple through society in terms of both class and gender divides but it was by no means instant. What Stevens adroitly draws our attention to, by cleverly placing this well after the Blitz had nominally finished, is just how differently the impact of war played out on women of different class as we find out how each woman has come to end up on this rooftop. Continue reading “Review: The Firewatchers, Old Red Lion”

Review: and the little one said…, Cock Tavern

“I don’t know what makes me more sad- that you went, or that you didn’t come back earlier.”

Marking my first visit to Kilburn’s Cock Tavern Theatre was a trip to see a new play and the little one said… by Laura Stevens. Centred on the story of Ben, who was kidnapped as a 10 year old boy and has finally been reunited with what remains of his family after 8 years, the play looks at his difficult transition back into the real world, away from his abductor, a situation made much worse by a hungry media who won’t leave this potentially huge (as they see it) story alone.

Stevens managed the slow reveal of information about Ben’s predicament extremely well, drawing the audience into the awful truth about what happened and the utterly devastating effects of terrible grief on a family. And in being economical which exactly what she divulges to us, the power of the play is amplified as our minds race to imagine what could have inspired the anguish we see on the faces of the people he tells. She is ably served by an excellent performance from Chris O’Shea as the traumatised Ben. Suffering from something akin to Stockholm Syndrome with his ongoing concern for his captor, O’Shea portrayed the emotionally stunted teenager with an affecting directness, painful at times with his warped ideas of love and sex, his inability to socialise and the slow journey to acceptance of what has happened to him. Continue reading “Review: and the little one said…, Cock Tavern”