Greyhounds is a play set in the fictional English village of Shuttlefield during World War II, where five residents attempt to stage a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V to raise money for a Spitfire.
After an opening monologue from Ruby Winters (played by Catherine Cowdrey), the cast are together for the first time in the village hall, with Ruby eager to begin rehearsals. Each of the five characters are played brilliantly by their actors, and were all given an equal amount of stage time to develop their characters fully throughout the course of the show.
I was initially worried that the characters might be a little cookie-cutter or be so similar that there would be nothing special about them; but each character had a different background and set of values that brought something new to the table, and the clash of personalities on stage made for some engaging scenes and interesting conflict, especially the quieter scenes with just two characters conversing over a cup of tea. From the moment they all gather for the first time, 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. The small, intimate stage made it feel like I was a fly on the wall during these moments, like I wasn’t supposed to be listening.
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. Katherine was so thoughtfully written and I respected the nuances in showing her mental illness as opposed to just portraying her as the stereotypical damaged and violent.
Seeing the war from five different perspectives was really thought provoking, but perhaps the most memorable came from Londoner Nancy Wilde (played by Fiona Primrose). As an outsider in the village, she had joined the play in hopes of fulfilling her dreams of being an actress. Her cheery outlook made for a much welcome comedic character in a serious and gripping war story, 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, and 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!