Pals return to Somme hell

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Lancaster’s Grand Theatre has again commemorated the centenary of the start of World War I with The Accrington Pals by Peter Whelan.

Written in 1981 (and not dated at all), it was performed by Lancaster Footlights under the direction of Alan Matthews, assisted by Erica Nash and Margaret Samuels.

Set in both Accrington and on The Somme, it is a sharp and sympathetic portrayal of the lives and fates of four men who enlist in the army, and their families and friends.

Yet this is no comfortable, cosy picture for the text depicts some inevitably harsh decisions and disruptions to relationships and the wider community.

There is more than a little comedy, alternately fierce and tender, and this was duly highlighted in the production.

There were strong performances from the cast, notably Joe Lister as the young worker-turned-squaddie Ralph and Joanne Leeman as the indomitable matriarch Annie Boggis.

Staging on the effective set was neat and imaginative, and the sound and lighting effects evocative. Diction was clear, costume and props were also suitably ‘period’.

All in all, then, a sure-footed, if workmanlike production, though I wondered whether the action and dialogue could have been brisker.

This said, sweetie-paper rattling and chit-chat from some of the audience was a severe distraction, and unforgivably unfair to both audience and the cast.

Michael Nunn