946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips review at Shakespeare’s Globe – ‘delightful’
For the second time in her inaugural season at the helm of Shakespeare’s Globe, director Emma Rice has imported a revival of a production she first made for her previous home at Cornwall’s Kneehigh Company. The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk was seen in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in June; now it’s the turn of 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips that first premiered at Kneehigh’s Asylum tent in St Austell in July 2015.
Rice’s shows have a free-form vitality yet rigorous physical discipline that make them feel intensely alive. In this delightful family show, she provides a gripping, moving portrait of a community under siege. Set in South Devon, 1943, it revolves around a group who are compulsorily evacuated from the area Slapton Sands so that the American military could use the coastline to practise for the D-day landings.
But Exercise Tiger, as it was dubbed, ended in tragedy, as 946 soldiers died after coming under attack themselves from a real German assault. Morpurgo intricately humanises the story, both for its effects on the community and also a couple of American soldiers who become embedded among them.
As in War Horse, Morpurgo’s First World War story that was famously also theatricalised, a child’s love of an animal and its attempts to be reunited with them drive the action. Instead of a horse, here we have a cat.
Music also plays an integral part again. And the Globe becomes an ideal arena for connecting its audience directly to the story, played out with an aching, fresh tenderness and surprise by its cast. The delightful Katy Owen plays lead role Lily, while Kneehigh artistic director Mike Shepherd doubles beautifully as her grandfather in the past and grandmother in the present.