A new full length show by three-part harmony group The Harmonettes turns its attention to WWI in a tender and intriguing tale about women and war – with songs, of course.
Dorothy’s War intertwines the incredible true story of journalist Dorothy Lawrence – who disguised herself as a soldier and cycled to France to observe life in the trenches – with a fictional, quintessentially English look at life on the Home Front, where no amount of bunting or stiff upper lip can hide the scars of war.
It’s reminiscent of the kind of gentle village way of life so beautifully captured in Deborah McAndrew’s An August Bank Holiday Lark – ordinary life turned upside down by extraordinary times. Punctuated by songs from the era, the production stars two of the original Harmonettes (who usually specialise in 1940s and 50s hits), Georgina Locke and Jessica Samuel, as a young school teacher and her mentor hosting a twee ‘pageant for peace’ in the local village hall – which serves as light relief for the drama unfolding behind the scenes, especially the riotous ‘speciality acts’. Our own Keddy Sutton makes a plucky and determined Dorothy, who gatecrashes the event with news of a local missing soldier…
It’s the songs that are the showcase here (although please forgive this reviewer for not being familiar with them), and audience participation is encouraged with charm to strike a nice balance of sweetness, gentle comedy and poignancy. It’s a lovely evening of entertainment reminiscing a bygone era, that does plenty on a small budget and subtly gives the audience plenty to think about long after Dorothy has made her exit.
As an aside, this was MADEUP’s first outing to the Arts Centre at Edge Hill uni – now the nearest theatre space to home since the obligatory move to the ‘burbs. A fantastic venue in a gorgeous setting, there will be plenty more visits in future.