A Level Drama

John Wiggins writes: Tell Mary I Love Her is the A Level drama production conceived, written and performed in The North Wall by this excellent Upper Sixth Drama set. I must confess at the outset to being a huge fan of this talented group and so might be a little blinkered to its faults or shortcomings but for an hour I was captivated by the performance. Not least was the observation of their progression in talent, skills, maturity and range from the production which achieved critical acclaim at Edinburgh 2015.

In short, we were taken back to 1939 and then through to 1945 telling the tale of two best friends in the army, a night club owner and three alluring singing sisters. The letter waiting for us, the audience, on our seats promised a story ‘about friendship, identity and (mostly) love’ but let’s throw in a big dollop of deception and, of course, the war! I think they may have mentioned it once……… but I think they got away with it.

The bond between comrades George (Will Bailey) and John (Charles Maddison) was forged and remained long after the demise of the former – so much so that the latter took his identity while a PoW, seemingly to protect the feelings of the eponymous Mary (Lucy Kellock) but largely, perhaps, for his own ends. How those ‘ends’ might have turned out, we were left hanging, in the words of narrator, and director, Vincent Moisy, for another story……..

We were also asked to look forward to ‘moments of joy and delight’ which came in abundance along with showcasing the undoubted talents of the ensemble – not least the singing of the three girls Mary, Betsy (Saskia Chancellor) and Claire (Grace Jones); if I were to compare them to the ‘Andrews Sisters’, then perhaps you, the reader might know what I mean. If at this stage you are lost, check YouTube for reference and see just how good these renditions were. The device of a self-mocking, play within a play was used to humorous effect with clever references to gender and visual effects – I enjoyed especially the rainfall from a small watering can even though (or perhaps because) it defrayed the tension of John’s post-war reunion with Mary.

Supervisor, Kat Eden, had for weeks been desperately trying to curb the ambitions of the group, the better to meet the demands of the examination board and did finally get them to switch one scene around completely: what was, on the first night, a very amusing but incongruous scene with two escaping Germans became, for assessment, a poignant interaction on the futility of war.

Much of the comedy came from the undoubted talents of Louis Verschoyle together with Moisy’s superb timing and the straight-playing of Maddison and Bailey. The latter has peaked for this production, as has Dom Rosso, whose portrayal of an aged PoW for me almost stole the show. When you add the staging and lighting from the incomparable Casper Sunley you have a hit just waiting for the Edinburgh 2016 adaptation. I for one would love to be there with them again but will leave that for others to enjoy.

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