Love becomes a casualty of war in a story that spans the decades

One Day When We Were Young - Maia Alexander as Violet and Andrew Sheridan as Leonard at Crucible Studio - credit Elyse Marks
One Day When We Were Young - Maia Alexander as Violet and Andrew Sheridan as Leonard at Crucible Studio - credit Elyse Marks
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EVERYONE knows that war takes sons away but what about the love robbed by far-away battles.

Leonard and Violet face such fall-out in the tear-jerking play One Day When We Were Young, their blossoming romance cut short when the bombs drop as they share a night in a Bath hotel.

One Day When We Were Young - Maia Alexander as Violet and Andrew Sheridan as Leonard at Crucible Studio - credit Elyse Marks

One Day When We Were Young - Maia Alexander as Violet and Andrew Sheridan as Leonard at Crucible Studio - credit Elyse Marks

One of three new pieces in the Roundabout season presented by Sheffield Theatres in association with Paines Plough, it returns Maia Alexander and Andrew Sheridan to the Crucible Studio tonight and Saturday.

Nick Payne’s story spans six decades, three eras, in the lives of Leonard and Violet – their post-war reunion, Violet married and a mother having believed Leonard dead, and finally the pair as pensioners facing regrets life has brought them.

One thing the play suggests is the grabbing of opportunity with both hands, not least now with people being whisked off to war in the Middle East.

“I guess the difference now is the communication, the ease and speed,” says Maia, “you’re very rarely left in the dark in the way my character was when Leonard disappeared and they were unable to reach each other.”

Much of the sadness of the piece stems from unrequited love, a relationship unable to reach its potential because of war.

“It affects everyone who comes to see it in different ways,” says Andrew.

“I think it’s a story that resonates for anyone, regardless of age, whether you’re a teenager or in your 90s. It’s a play that offers a lot.”

Part of Clare Lizzimore’s direction sees the actors transform for different eras at a dressing table brought into the auditorium between acts, adding to the flow of the play but arguably risking belief.

“I think it’s important the way it’s done,” says Andrew, who may be familiar to some from the Joy Division biopic Control.

“It could be done two other ways; where different actors play in each scene and age naturally or you can see them go off and come back on aged.

“Doing it on stage is really quite important. It makes the audience buy into it.

“They invest more into the two people they’ve seen from the beginning getting ready in front of mirrors.”

Adds Maia: “It’s amazing how costume makes you feel. We’d been rehearsing in our own clothes. Then for the second scene I put on this huge heavy coat and instantly it gives a feeling of mature weight.”

Another aspect the Roundabout actors had to adjust to swiftly was a specially built 150-seater wooden auditorium.

“The first time we saw it, it was like, ‘Well, it feels like we’re a bit penned in’,” admits Maia, in her first professional role.

“But then you get used to it and it’s warm, in a way.

“At the beginning I do feel very aware of the audience but in a nice way and then they disappear.”

Arguably the biggest challenge of all, however, is having to overlap plays.

Tonight and Saturday Maia and Alexander will perform One Day, back to back with Lungs, starring Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn.

All four then come together for Penelope Skinner’s film noir-style detective mystery The Sound Of Heavy Rain, which runs until Saturday.

In that, cabaret singer Foxie O’Hara vanishes and concerned best friend Maggie hires a private investigator.

As he delves into the history of their friendship the real question becomes not where but who is Foxie?