A splendidly constructed World War Two piece, that struggles to be heard.

I would recommend this show to those interested in a black comedy with a Bruce Bairnsfather atmosphere.

A group of American and British airmen are shot down behind enemy lines, one member of their crew is badly injured, so they take refuge in an empty school. The show opens with a gripping and gory piece of battlefield surgery. The play revolves around trying to work out what to do next, do they risk moving the injured soldier, or stay and hope the Nazi’s don’t find them. Whilst they delay, the soldiers tell tales of how they ended up where they are today. Golden boys of America, brushing shoulders with the last man alive on his London Street. Doses of bleak comedy from the bits carry the team through, until a German woman appears at the door.

The performances were crisp and believable. Particular credit to their accent, with the right amount of dated feel to create that genuine World War Two feel. All of the soldiers were excellently unsteady, but the shot soldier, ex-member of the Cambridge University Gliding Society – now slowly bleeding out on a table, deserves specific mention for maintaining his death throes continually throughout the entire performance, with a disturbing accuracy. Also Caoim Blair’s haunting description of the bombing of Hamburg will stay with me for a long time.

May Curtiss the set designer, and whoever was in charge of costume & makeup did a fantastic job. A parachute, opened and frozen in freefall forms the backdrop of the abandoned schoolroom - where the five soldiers hole up - conjured to life with a blackboard, globe and beautifully period set dressing. All five of them could have really walked out of a warzone, covered in grime and numerous bleeding injuries they all looked the part. Eerie radio messages from the aircrafts, breaking up with static helped evoke, a tiny portion, of the terror felt whilst on an aeroplane crashing to earth.

It was incredibly disappointing that it was so difficult to hear the actors speak. The combination of lack of projection, talking over each other in many scenes, and some very clipped and antiquated accents, meant that for large chunks of the show I was playing catch-up trying to work out what on earth was going on. It took me a while to get a grip on who everybody was, and far too long to work out why one of them had suddenly become Australian. I was very thankful to be near the front of the audience. The script also has its weaker moments as it fails to provide believable circumstances for such a story to take place. Why do these troops turn to performing their backstories to each other to pass the time whilst hiding from the Germans in the first place? And also how does the American leader instinctively slip into the guise of the various secondary characters. Is acting and improvisation generally a part of the Air Force training? The inclusion of a supernatural presence seems to be an attempt to move away from the familiar tropes which modern audiences associate with World War Two dramas, it’s a shame the idea is abandoned before it takes off.

I would recommend this show to those interested in a black comedy with a Bruce Bairnsfather atmosphere. 

Reviews by M Johnson

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Gilded Balloon Teviot





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The Blurb

Winter, 1944. Holland. Five young air bombers are trapped behind enemy lines, fighting for the life of their wounded engineer. But an unwanted visitor comes knocking. Do they cling to their comrade, or flee for their lives?

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