Blonde Bomshells of 1943
Pitlochry Festival Theatre JJJ
Alan Plater’s Blonde Bombshells Of 1943 is a short twohourmemoryplay,firstseenin 2004, about one of the female dance-bands that – during the Second World War – replaced male musicians serving overseas. Ben Occhipinti’s production at Pitlochry is partly designed to support the theatre in working more closely with people with dementia, who tend to respond strongly to the play’s musical content; what this play can’t do, though, is to help us understand the intense wartime nostalgia of the elderly generation of 2019, who in many cases were not even born during the conflict.
Set mainly in a bombedout cinema near Manchester, where indomitable bandleader Betty is trying to conduct a rehearsal before an evening radio show, Blonde Bombshells therefore emerges as a fascinating glimpse of social history – and particularly of the liberating effect of war on women taking on previously ‘male’ roles – slightly betrayed by its own brevity, and the sheer number of songs involved, into offering more easy nostalgia than real insight into how nations remember and shape their own history.
The songs are gorgeous, though, ranging from wartime classics like Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree to our heroine Liz’s lovely personal anthem, If I Had A Ribbon Bow, sung with real passion by Lynwen Haf Roberts as both Liz and her granddaughter, our narrator; and the sound of the audience joining in, as the company sing Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye, is immensely moving, a tribute to the sheer power and passion of national memory and mythmaking, in an age of too much forgetting.
In repertoire at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until September
0 Blonde Bombshells of 1943 is stronger on nostalgia than insight