Monday, August 17, 2015

The Lone Pine Club play reviewed

For an hour on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Norfolk I recaptured my childhood  - or at least a treasured part of it.

There was a time when I refused to read anything but Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine books, and this summer the Pentabus Rural Theatre Company has turned those books into a play and toured it round five National Trust properties. I saw it at Sheringham Park, a couple of miles from the centre of that town.

There is one venue left: you can still catch the play at Wallington near Morpeth in Northumberland. If you have young children or have not let your heart grow hard, I recommend you do so.

Malcolm Saville is best described as the thinking child's Enid Blyton and, as Tony Gillam suggested in an early review, hanging over this project was the shadow of The Comic Strip's Give Go Mad in Dorset.

But that spook was swept away by the good nature of the script and the energy of the acting. When the Malcolm Saville Society was formed 20 years ago I coined the term 'amused respect' to describe our attitude to him, and that was very much the spirit of The Lone Pine Club play.

The Saville family wisely gave Alice Birch free rein in adapting the books, and she came up a script that conveyed their essence perfectly.

It featured the book's central character David Morton, his younger twin brother and sister Dickie and Mary, and Peter (Petronella Sterling). Still young, they looked back over their adventures, occasionally breaking out to complain that the story didn't go like that or the best bits were being left out.

Other characters were portrayed by the four young adult members of the cast, who sometimes found themselves obliged to play more than one person in the same scene. With hilarious consequences.

It seems unfair to single out one member of the cast, and it may be down to the writing or the direction, but I have to say that Anya Collyer, who seems to be least experienced of the four, in some magical way was the Peter of the books.

The only note of sadness was when I worked out that the last time I was in Sheringham it was to have tea with Malcolm Saville's younger son, the Revd Jeremy Saville, and his wife.

He has since died, and only Rosemary Dowler, the elder daughter, of Malcolm Saville's children is still with us. You can see her in the photograph above with the cast of the play (and Mackie the dog, of course) at its first venue in Shropshire.

As Rosemary writes in the excellent programme for the play:
It is sad that my brothers, Robin and Jeremy, and my sister Jennifer, are not around to join in the fun, but I know they would be as delighted as I am to see my father's books being brought to life in such a delightful way.

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