World War II has begun. In England, five citizens of Shuttlefield are raising money for a Spitfire by staging a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
Ruby Winters (played by Catherine Cowdrey) begins with a monologue, and the cast gather for the first time in the village hall.
I worried that the characters could be cookie-cutter, or be so similar there would be nothing special about them. I shouldn’t have worried. Each character had a different background and set of values that brought something new to the table, and the personality clashes on stage created engaging scenes and interesting conflict. Especially the quieter scenes with just two characters conversing over a cup of tea. From the moment they meet, it became apparent that not everyone was as honest as they seemed. As the play progressed I felt tension grow between the characters. I was dying to know their stories but also dreading what I might find out. I felt like a fly on the wall during these moments, like I wasn’t supposed to be listening. The actors played their characters brilliantly, and had an equal amount of stage time to develop their arcs throughout the show.
As well as writing the play, Laura Crow stars as the brilliant and often snarky Katherine Winters. To a modern audience she appears to be on the autism spectrum and displaying traits of OCD – something that works against her in a less progressive 1940’s Britain. Knowing Laura’s story gave me a greater appreciation for her character – as she wrote the whole play whilst housebound by her own OCD. It was clear that Laura wrote Katherine from her own experience. I respected how her mental illness was accurately portrayed as opposed to Katherine just being stereotypically damaged and violent.
It was fascinating to see the war from five different perspectives. But perhaps the most memorable came from Londoner Nancy Wilde (played by Fiona Primrose). As an outsider in the village, she joined the play in hopes of fulfilling her dreams of being an actress. In a serious and gripping war story, her cheery outlook made for a welcome comedic character. Which was probably why I found her backstory the most unsettling.
This is a play so well written, well acted, and extensively researched that I felt like I had travelled back in time to 1941. To see the effects of war through different people was truly eye opening. I only wish it were longer.
Greyhounds is at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018 from the 3rd – 11th and the 13th– 18th August. If you’re thinking of going to Fringe this year, don’t miss this show!