Blue Remembered Hills

This year our practical assessment in Drama has been a three month project, from September until December, on ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ written by Dennis Potter, who also wrote other popular television programmes, films scripts and plays such as “The Confidence Course” that he wrote in the early part of his career in 1965, onto things like “Sufficient Carbohydrate” in 1983.

Although he mainly wrote a lot of his scripts for television and films, script such as Blue Remembered Hills, originally written by Dennis Potter in 1979 for a small television programme telling the stories of a group of seven year olds adventures in a forest, on a summers day during the Second World War. However the tale was so popular that it was re-written as a theatre production suitable for the stage. Since then it has been made into a number of different films and theatre productions across the world. One example is an amateur production that we went to see in hove performed at ‘The Barn Theatre’ in Hove. The production was very successful, with sell out seat every night, proving it to be a very popular play to this day, not only to perform but also to go and watch.

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The themes of Blue Remembered Hills are very well shown through out the play, the themes include; Friendship: The string that holds all of the children together as friends. Pain: Something that in various form, effects every character, for instance, the pain Willie gets when Peter beats him up in the first scene. Abuse: The physical abuse Donald gets from his mother. Bulling: The bulling Donald receives from all of the other children when they call him “Donald Duck” and tell him to “quack”. Death: the death of he squirrel and the death of Donald. All of these powerful themes gives the play a hard message and entertaining feeling.

My contribution to Blue Remembered Hills was performing three scenes alongside ‘Start Hackshaw’ The first scene we did was the very first from the play, with Peter and Willie walking and talking in the forest leading into a fight were Peter beats up Willie. I was playing Willie and Stuart was playing Peter. The second scene we did was the seventh scene in the play where Donald is in the barn by himself crying the words “Come back dad.” In this scene I played Donald. The final scene we did was the twenty third scene in the play with Donald in the Bar trying to light a match trying to make a fire, Stuart played Donald. The two characters I played different and was a nice challenge

To help me with my performance I used various forms of research such as the internet, books, other scripts written by Dennis Potter and asked a director I know, who has directed Blue Remembered Hills in the past, some questions. I found out many things about Dennis Potter, how he normally writes his scripts for television and how he does not like child actors. I found out a lot about the time period of the play and a lot of things about life, clothing, songs and behaviour in the time of the play. All of these helped me with my performance as I felt I could really get into my character when I knew all of the facts.

The most useful text material I used was the information pack, my teacher gave me, about every aspect of life during the Second World War from popular war song to the fashion in clothes. However I also found it very useful to read other scripts by Dennis Potter such as ‘Hide and Seek’ and ‘Lord of the Files’ as they were a really good place to look for similarities in script and themes.

Our piece was set in the West Country during the Second World War, in a wood, a field and a barn. Following the adventures of a group of seven year olds and the things they get up to one summers afternoon. The period is very important because due to the time of when this story was set, changes what the group of children can do due to the restriction of the time period. For instance because it was set during the war, you have to remember that a lot of the character’s fathers would be out at war and the characters might not know if there fathers would be coming home or not. The time period also mad us think about how much times have changed, even the simplest things would have been a child’s toy in those days, “They got hold of an old tyre, the lucky devils.”

On the other hand, ‘Stand By Me’ was set in the 1990s and although there were a lot of similarities in the themes, mostly everything taken from the time period was different. For instance the children would play with card and not a tire, because the film is set at a more modern date, the characters take thing for granted, cars, food etc.. You would simply not see a fight over and apple in Stand By Me because the times had changed and the world had changed too, as did peoples life styles. Yet the two stories are both about the journey/adventures of young children, dealing with the same themes and issues such as, friendship, bulling, death, rank and love.

The people in ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ are mainly lower to working class, living in small villages or towns. This is a contrast to ‘Stand By Me’ were the people are middle to upper class, living with no real financial problems. You can see this because of the clothes they wear, the cars, the houses and the general look of the film as opposed to the drippy, cheap look of the clothes you see on the characters in ‘Blue Remembered Hill’.

On doing research I learnt that in the time of the war, most families believe din god, and as a lot of family members were away in the war, most families would prey every day. Also due to the war, a lot of people were racist about their enemies. This is show throughout the play with lines like, “Them Japs is the most cruellest devils as ever walked.”

This is very different in ‘Stand By Me’ as there is no mention of racism at all, and no mention of religious belief. If anything the children are more mischievous, smoking, gambling, telling lies and swearing. Their mischief is shown through out the film in all sorts of way, for instance, when Gordie shots a gun.

We chose to perform in a completely naturalistic style. We felt it would make more sense and stay true to the way the script was originally written. Playing it completely naturalistic was the same as the original television programme and the same as the style of the film as well as similar to ‘Stand By Me’ We simply used our own ideas for set, costume, props and lighting to bring to bring it to life. Even the props we used we really simple in that we only used an apple and some matches.

In conclusion I would say that due to various mean of research I have found out a lot of things about the characters, lifestyle in the time period, clothing and peoples belief that have all helped me play my character as accurately as possible, making the finished performance an achievement and very well done.

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