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|The Accrington Pals|
|The Accrington Pals
by Peter Whelan
Review by George Allan (June 1985)In 1914, responding to a patriotic call by the mayor of Accrington, a battalion of 700 men was formed in a few days, with young and middle-aged men being egged on by their women-folk to enlist.
The battalion became known as The Accrington Pals, and on one morning in July 1916, in the Battle of the Somme, more than 500 of them died in what was supposed to be 'the final push'.
And The Accrington Pals is the play that Youth Action Theatre has chosen to take to Vienna later this month, and which we had the opportunity to see at Vine Hall, East Molesey, last week. The writer, Peter Whelan, has focused on two couples, and through them shows the brutalising effect on those at home as well as those sent to carry out their wishes.
May Hassal, is approaching 30 and terrified of the feelings awakening in her for 19-year-old Tom, an apprentice who has lived with her family since he was a young boy. Lesley Hann was May, capturing her sense of frustrated fear and the way in whcih she sublimates it in work, while David Wheatley, as Tom, began more awkwardly than the part demands, but grew in intensity throughout the evening.
The other pair, Eva, a millgirl, and her lover Ralph, have everything that May and Tom aspire to but cannot grasp.
This is exemplified in the ghostly Tom's vulpine snarl as May in her vision tries to touch him.
Aiden Paddick and Marion Champion played these two parts beautifully.
There were other fine performances, especially from Sonya Peskett forever berating her half-witted son, Reggie, superbly played by Alan Jamieson, and Fiona Kavanagh as the gloriously earthy, married millworker Sarah.
Eric Yardley directed with such a sure and light hand that this can hardly fail to capture the hearts as well as the minds of the Viennese.
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