Leave Hitler to Me, Lad tells the untold story of a generation of children in the aftermath of the Second World War. It recalls the evacuation program issued by the British government, ‘Evacuate Forthwith’ and ‘Operation Pied Piper,’ that planned to move 3.5 million children in three days, many of whom did not know where they were going nor if they would ever see their families again.
The play is set in a children’s home in Essex where Brian, Gladys and George are sent to avoid the aerial bombings by Nazi Germany. They spend their time entertaining one another, either playing musical instruments or cowboy and Indians, until one day, they are told they must leave to join their surrogate families. They are torn away from each other, not knowing whether they see each other again, ever. These scenes are juxtaposed with songs that are supposed to capture the climate as well as the sentiments of the characters as they embark on their new journey.
The set is covered in carpet and a cyclorama of a war propaganda poster, which gives an authentic feel to the play. The desks create a school environment and the orange – yellow lighting adds a vintage atmosphere to the setting. The matching costumes are very simple and help the audience distinguish between the two generations on stage.
The play overall lacked emotional depth, especially in some of the crucial monologues that failed to even flow naturally. It felt flat from the beginning and struggled to maintain sufficient energy to keep the performance going. The singing was out of tune and painful to sit through, at times even cringe worthy. The audience seemed to be itching to escape but due to the dimensions of the room, were forced to sit through this school performance that should have been a moving West End play.
- Written and Directed by Haley Cox
- Music by Ben Pringle
- Cast: Louis Labovitch, James Mountain, Rosie Fox, Rachel O’Hare, George Grattage, Amy Leek, Sam Davies
- The Arts Theatre, London
- Until 8 October 2015 (then on tour)
- Review by Nicole Kent
- 6 October 2015