"London blitz comes to life"
by Rebecca Paton for remotegoat on 08/06/10

Descending into the crypt at St Andrews it doesn't take much to imagine you're in a World War II bunker. The cool, candle-lit vaults set the mood for the evening, and with a cup of sugary tea for courage, you're thrown right into war time London.

The plot is deceptively simple. Four Londoners from different backgrounds stumble into the vaults to shelter from the German planes. As they wait out the raid, their life stories unfold and we get to know the people behind the stoic but frightened faces.

Throughout the night real stories of courage, humanity and kindness are told through vignettes which are moving and at times comedic. But with the light comes the dark, and as the crypt threatens to cave in as the bombs come closer, so the cracks in the social fabric of 1940s England begin to show.

Freya Finnerty's Esther is beautiful and courageous and epitomises the goodness and self-sacrifice of London's nurses during the war. Her beau, Jonathan (Benjamin Way), fills the room with nightmares of war on the continent, as we witness his efforts to forget and lead a normal life. Margaret (Nadege Adlam) must reconcile her comfortable upper class life with her new role as an ambulance driver. Helen (Angie Fullman) comes to terms with her own personal tragedies and reminds us of the lighter side of the war - dancing and singing throughout the confinement.

The brilliant cast of the Scrawny Cat Theatre Company have managed to capture something special in the crypts at St Andrews. The intimate and evocative set means that minimal props are necessary to make the war stories come to life. The sound design was skilful, and the attention to detail with costuming is worthy of commendation. The artful story-telling produces moments lost in time but crucial to London and its residents' lives, while reminding us that while we may mourn the loss of the 'blitz spirit', other attitudes of the time are best left in the past. The only frustration is that its brevity results in some missed opportunities to further probe many of the issues touched upon.

If the question is, "Could this Be The Last Time?" I hope that the answer is that I will be seeing much more of the Scrawny Cat's re-imagining of our past in the very near future.

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