Set in the small village of Shuttlefield, Greyhounds sees the local amateur dramatic society attempt to raise money for a Spitfire fighter aircraft by putting on a production of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Cleverly contrasting the 15th century war with that of the 20th century, playwright Laura Crow gives us a nuanced and naturalistic portrayal of a group banding together to do their bit for the war effort, exploring their dynamics as well as their individual stories with humour and pathos.
You should think yourself accurs’d if you miss this clever and charming production.
While one of the characters declares she finds Shakespeare ‘a terrible drag’, this production is anything but. Even before we enter the theatre, we are immersed in the world of wartime Britain. Having been welcomed to 1941 by a smiling woman who exchanges our tickets for programmes in the form of identity cards, and who cheerfully instructs us about what to do in the event of the air raid sirens going off, we enter to the sound of Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’. The attention to detail in this production from the costumes and set, to the music during scene changes is fantastic, and I have yet to speak about the cleverly crafted characters.
Laura Crow plays Katherine Winters, a serious woman who doesn’t see the point in putting on the play, as they’ll only raise enough money for a third of a propeller. Most of the humour of the piece comes from her taking everything literally and her dry wit, in contrast with her sister Ruby, played by Catherine Cowdrey, who tries desperately to pull the production together. Their barbed comments and shared moments give a true sense of a sisterly bond. Nancy Wilde (Fiona Primrose) is the endearing newcomer from London who dreams of an acting career, and her budding relationship with injured serviceman Edward Holmes (Tim Cooper), is contrasted well with that of Katherine and farm-hand Will Croft (Jacob Taylor).
As the rehearsals get underway, the dynamics of the group are thrown into sharp relief, from their differing attitudes to the war and varied experiences, while the characters as individuals are also given their moment to shine, whether in monologues from Henry V which are interspersed with the main action to highlight their state of mind, or when their secrets and histories are brought to light. Although this was done well for the most part, sometimes these individual plot threads felt a bit lost within the main narrative, although the overall pacing of the show never dragged.
As opening night approaches there is more drama offstage than on, as relationships and built up and break down and secrets are revealed. While exploring differing ideas of heroism and cowardice Crow gives us a real slice of life from the time, whose characters examine issues still relevant today, from the yearning for new and better experiences to the trauma of war. Henry V states that ‘gentlemen in England now a-bed/Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here’, and you should think yourself accurs’d if you miss this clever and charming production.