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Hope and Glory. Class Act Productions. Parkway Theatre, Cleethorpes. 03 November 2023.

Hope and Glory

Class Act Productions

Parkway Theatre, Cleethorpes

03 November 2023

I returned to the Parkway in Cleethorpes for the second day in a row to watch the second of three plays being performed over two evenings. Having enjoyed watching The Glove Thief last night, I was looking forward to seeing two more plays from the pen of Class Act's prolific founder David Wrightam. Hope and Glory marks the first production in seven years for the youngest members of Class Act and for many was their first time on a real stage in front of a live audience coping with headsets and the all the pressures of a one-off performance. I believe that this will not be the last we see of those making their debuts this weekend.

This slightly truncated version of the full play is an ideal vehicle for young performers and tells the tale of a "gang" of young children in London during WW2. As the Nazis bomb London, families had to take the heart-rending decision to stay and risk death or serious injury, or to split up and send the children to the relative safety of the countryside. The boys of the gang are led by Sidney, played with real vigour and enthusiasm by Aaron Parker and his best friend Ronnie, an impressive performance from Jack Etherington. Together they plot and plan to fight the Germans if they dare to come across to England and their younger partners in crime are Milo Clayton whose plays the sensitive Geoffrey, along Eddie and Lennie play by Coby Greenwood and Orlando Dalanon. Their latest recruit whom they take on with great reluctance is Cyril in a delightful, show-stealing performance from Josh Ellis-Thompson.

The girls are equally impressive, forming the Dolly Gang. Jasmine Wilson as Peggy plays a brattish girl who really teases her brother in a very natural way. Mollie played by Daisy Barton sounds truly disgusted by the boys trying to kiss the girls when no one else is around. Cyril's sister Mollie, who has to undergo a "daring" initiation ceremony to be accepted into the gang is wonderfully played by Renee Fairhurst. Lola Firth, Renee Ornsby, Holly Hudson, Katy Jackson, Eve Donovan and Kailen Best all give confident and assured performances.

As the adults, Emilia Roberts, Olivia Ornsby and Madison Steyert are terrific managing to appear old beyond their years, a fact you notice when they come off stage and you realise how young they are and yet, how convincing they really were in role. I want to give special mention to Izzy Forman though as Grandma. She is hilarious as the cantankerous old woman in desperate need of "the lavvy" who has to relieve herself in a bucket behind a towel.

The story is a winning and charming one that plays heavily on the pluck and resilience of the British during wartime. The play is unashamedly nostalgic and manages to interweave some classic wartime songs with the action and the two singers, Ayla Jafri and Imogen Taylor shone taking their cameo with great energy and enthusiasm, not bad at all, considering both had bigger roles last night in The Glove Thief. Running at around 45 minutes the play concluded with what could have been a horrifying moment as young Cyril, in a desperate effort to impress the Mighty Gang, accidentally sets off an unexploded bomb, but thankfully all's well that ends well and he returns to the stage with a blackened face and a lovely last line delivered to perfection.

I sincerely hope to see more of these very young actors in the coming years and trust that each will be given a chance to shine like their older counterparts in upcoming plays. Once again I commend Class Act Productions on an accomplished production and performance.

Andy Evans 04 November 2023

All photography by Holly Chapman Smileshoot Photography copyright 2023.

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