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An August Bank Holiday Lark

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Writer Deborah McAndrew skilfully captures the language and logic of the period with this play which takes its title from a line in Philip Larkin’s poem MCMXIV – a reference to the carefree atmosphere felt across Britain as a generation of young men happily queued to enlist for the trenches. As Larkin wrote, “Never such innocence again.”

Set in a small hillside East Lancashire village and centred around the annual break from the all-consuming cotton mills – the Wakes Week holiday and traditional August Rushbearing Festival – this is director Barrie Rutter’s authentic, convincing contribution to the First World War centenary.

Act I is set in the summer of 1914, when the end of an era was looming on the horizon – one to which the young men of the village prepare to meet with a misplaced optimism and fierce patriotism, all believing the conflict will be over by the year’s end.

Act II takes place exactly a year later. Lives have been lost, families broken, relationships doomed, everything has changed and no end is in sight to the “war to end wars.”

Director Barrie Rutter casts himself perfectly as the rush festival’s all powerful bombastic Squire and old school father, whose fall from firm, but well-meaning patriarch, to a man broken by events beyond his control is of tragic proportions.

Conrad Nelson’s folk music and authentically executed clog dance choreography much of it courtesy of the Saddleworth Morris Men archives is expertly combined with McAndrew’s narrative by the outstanding ensemble cast in this moving addition to the commemorative canon.

An August Bank Holiday Lark booking, Northern Broadsides’ website

Robin Duke

  • The Dukes, Lancaster
  • March 4-8, then touring until June 14
  • Author: Deborah McAndrew
  • Director: Barrie Rutter
  • Producers: Northern Broadsides, New Vic Theatre
  • Cast includes: Barrie Rutter, Darren Kuppan, Emily Butterfield, Elizabeth Eves, Jack Quarton, Ben Burman
  • Running time: 2hrs 30min

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The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.