reviewed at The Undercroft, Peterborough on 29 October
This is the latest in Eastern Angles’ plays based on archival and spoken evidence – an example of the company’s own unique brand of drama-documentary. Freemans Catalogue Distribution Centre operated in Peterborough between 1969 and 2009 and its (largely female) employees were instrumental in initiating equal pay reforms.
Queen-pin of the story as written by Ivan Cutting is Edie (Jan Wright) who became the union’s shop steward. We also enter the lives of various of her colleagues, notably Mandy (Kat Cushman) who tragically miscarries and Aisha (Summer Mooed) who works for Freeman having discovered that her secretarial skills are outweighed by her brown skin.
Suzanne Tuck as Kath, Rubin Carter as Liz and Michelle Scott as Susan also give good performances. Fiona Rigler has designed a suitably open and somewhat bleak set for Poppy Rowley’s production, which keeps the action on the move as the years pass, people come and go and new owners take over putting more emphasis on profitability than on personnel.
In many ways, this is a site-specific production, if you take “site” to be a place or even a city rather than an individual building or piece of open ground. Peterborough itself is an amalgam of the old and the new. Outreach ventures such as Eastern Angles’ local productions help to cement the two more firmly.
Three and a half-star rating.
All Wrapped Up in Westwood runs at The Undercroft, Serpentine Green, Peterborough until 5 November. There are matinée performances on 4 and 5 November.
(reviewed at The Undercroft, Peterborough on 28 October)
Julie Mayhew has updated the classic E Nesbit adventure story The Railway Children from the early 20th century and Yorkshire to the Swinging Sixties and Cambridgeshire. Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter have acquired a stroppy teenage older sister, Cheryl, and the family’s enforced move is from Petersham to Peterborough.
If pre-First World War spy mania was a feature of the Edwardian period, then the 1960s saw a resurgence fuelled by the Profumo affair and the Burgess and Maclean scandal. Each of the siblings has to adjust in their different ways to the change in circumstances with their mother shielding them from any knowledge of what actually has happened to her husband and their father.
Poppy Rowley keeps the action moving with all four of her actors playing several parts as well as those of Bobbie (Lianne Harvey), Cheryl (Lily Howkins), Phyllis (Charlotte Ellen) and Peter (Lewys Taylor). Fashion-wise Howkins as Cheryl makes a good foil to Harvey’s older in understanding than in years Bobbie and Ellen’s ‘tween ages Phyllis. Taylor’s all-boy Peter is also a person in whom one can believe.
The set designed by Fiona Rigler is simple – two wooden frameworks which pivot as indoor locations change to outdoor ones. Her costumes, notably Cheryl’s booby-sox and white mini-dress and Bobbie’s Rive Gauche outfit of black jumper and leggings – very Juliette Greco – add their own dimension to the girls’ characterisation. A simple straw hat indicates their mother as they alternate in taking on the part.
You can’t quite describe this Eastern Angles production as site-specific; like any good story it has a chameleon quality. A local audience will pick up on places and areas which may be just names to outsiers. But anyone who lives in East Anglia is still experiencing the effects of Dr Beeching’s axe-swing across the region’s rail network. Plus ça change…
The Fletton Railway Children runs at The Undercroft, Serpentine Green Shopping Centre until 5 November.