Laurie Lee’s charming autobiography is imaginatively adapted for the stage by James Roose-Evans. The adult Lee, played by Roger Bingham, perfectly provides poetic, wide-eyed, nostalgic, retrospective commentary to his salad days and gets in the thick of the action, occasionally rubbing shoulders with his youthful self, Stuart Rooker.
It’s a feel-good, wholesome and cosy memoir, which has the audience grinning from ear to ear throughout. Lee is upfront and honest however to admit that even the lovely, sleepy Cotswold village of his childhood is not exempt from harsher, less salubrious elements of life.
Lee’s upbringing is by no means easy. He idolises his mother, Edwina Gascoyne who single-handedly brings up six children in relative poverty after his father abandons the home. He chooses to focus on the more cheery aspects however and paints an idyllic existence. Although a time of rapid change during The Great War, the fond memories are of a bygone age.
School comprises rote learning of tables and religion. Home is filled with mother’s stories whilst the children sit round the kitchen table, entranced. Entertainment is a merry go round at Weston Super Mare and bad jokes and singing at a festival.
The play is finely directed by Phil Gascoyne, and all the cast are caught up in the sheer wonder and amiability of Lee’s life. The lighting, set and motion picture backdrop expertly depict the passing of the seasons. When the titular drink is poured in a sunny meadow, it’s a bitter-sweet experience as innocent youth is lost forever.