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For me – and I’m sure the vast majority of the audience at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue last night – Nina Bawden’s Carrie’s War is a forgotten childhood story filed in the back of the memory. A bit like Oliver Twist or The Hobbit.
Set in 1939 the story revolves around 12 year old Carrie and her younger brother Nick, who are evacuated out of London during the Second World War to a Welsh mining town. Stories of a young slave boy’s scull, a miserable miserly bible bashing shopkeeper, a mysterious wealthy dying widow, a white witch and a cavernous old house built on an ancient Druid site await them.
Carrie and her brother are clever, innocent, funny Enid Blyton type characters, who know the difference between right and wrong and in the case of young Nick think with their stomachs first. Whereas Mr Evans, brilliantly played by Sion Tudor Owen, whose false- teeth sucking daft rants for me at least, stole the show and his sister played by Kacey Ainsworth (remember her in EastEnders?) the down trodden mousey Lou feel more Dickens. It’s a pretty talented and starry cast led by Prunella Scales who plays the ailing, sad but slightly sinister Mrs Gotobed.
Gentle but fast paced, Carrie’s War worked the cast hard as the production demands them to act and sing wonderful Welsh hymns. It’s action packed too – humour, betrayal, Carrie’s journey from child to teenager – all contained by a brilliant set that features two houses, both with two levels divided by a pocket of war-torn Welsh countryside. The stage was a clever, constant reminder of the war and the play’s two locations.
One for grownups and kids, Carrie’s War is a brilliant yarn, immaculately staged and performed. Playing to a packed house, everyone in the audience loved Carrie’s War. If you see the play, let us know what you think.