Blonde Bomshells of 1943

The Scotsman - - REVIEWS -

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.

JOYCE MCMIL­LAN

In reper­toire at Pit­lochry Fes­ti­val The­atre un­til Septem­ber

0 Blonde Bomb­shells of 1943 is stronger on nos­tal­gia than in­sight

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