It would be difficult not to enjoy spending an evening in the delightful surroundings of Island House and the weather presented us with a beautiful evening. The scene is set in a ‘natural’ stage area bounded by a hedge and furnished with straw bales, farming implements and even a tractor. The lighting, when we need it, is discreet and effective, and the sound clear. We are greeted by ARP wardens to establish the time period and invited to place our chairs on the lawn between the house and the river.
It is a credit to the performances and the production that we watch the show rather than the fish rising in the river.
Lilies on the Land has a cast of just four women, who pass the narrative between them, taking on any other characters required by each storyline. The play opens with the announcement of the death of Winston Churchill in 1965 and then flashes back to the girls signing up for the Women’s Land Army. We share in their hopes, expectations, disillusionment and sense of achievement. The cast move seamlessly between accent, class and gender, with bursts of song, recorded and sung live, breaking up the narration.
Director, Bob Heather, first directed this same cast in the play at the Plaza Theatre, Romsey, four years ago and clearly the women have formed a good understanding with one another which helps the audience to appreciate the closeness and bonds which were forged between the real land army girls.
To single anyone out in this excellent production seems unfair as it is such a team effort but I particularly enjoyed Georgette Ellison’s Farmer Bainbridge. There are many other funny, sad, poignant moments: the upmarket Poppy (Emma Jobling) relating the story of the field toilet; the simple delight of Peggy (Danni Fletcher) discovering the joys of driving a tractor – especially without her glasses on – and naïve Margie (Jane Russell) taking the cow to be serviced by the local bull, to name a few.
An entertaining and often moving production.