Theatre group keep calm and Carrie on in the wartime spirit

Evacuee Nick (Thomas Ferris) anxiously waits to see if someone will give him a home
Evacuee Nick (Thomas Ferris) anxiously waits to see if someone will give him a home
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Operation Pied Piper during World War Two evacuated almost a million British children from cities to the comparative safety of the countryside.

One of those children was Nina Bawden and her childhood experiences as an evacuee in Wales formed the basis of Carrie’s War, her classic novel for young people.

Sheffield amateur theatre group Denys Edwards Players are bringing the stage version of the book to the Crucible Studio in Sheffield next week.

In the 1940s Carrie Willow and her brother Nick find themselves in the Welsh mining valleys.

There they are plunged into a strange new world of rural living with dangers and adventures of its own and encounter a group of characters who will change Carrie’s life for ever.

There’s the tyrannical Mr Evans, kind-hearted Auntie Lou, eccentric Mrs Gotobed, brilliant young Albert Sandwich and Hepzibah Green, the ‘witch’ at Druid’s Bottom who makes a perfect apple pie.

And then there’s the ancient skull with its terrifying curse...

As befits a show about families, members of three appear on stage. Juliet Ibberson, who takes the title role, first appeared with the group in the Studio as the young Jane Eyre, when her mum was the older Jane.

This time her mum, Jan, plays Auntie Lou and her dad, Charles, plays a solicitor.

Regular audience members will also recognise Juliet as the actress who played the title role in Anne of Green Gables.

Brother and sister Daniel and Alison Mitchell play Albert and the grown-up Carrie’s daughter.

Well-known local director Kay Massey is at the helm and her husband, Jack, plays Mr Johnny.

Sue Toulson, who is in charge of costumes and props, roped in her stepdaughter Kay McDermott to help.

No problem, there’s plenty of wartime outfits around with all the groups doing reconstructions and nostalgia events, they thought.

Apparently not!

One problem is that lots of wartime clothes were altered time and time again as new outfits were in short supply under rationing.

The budget doesn’t stretch to hiring many costumes, so Sue and her team spent a lot of time on eBay.

In true wartime ‘make do and mend’ style, they have adapted a lot of pieces.

“Anything we haven’t adapted will go straight back on eBay too!” said Sue.

One costume they had to hire was an American officer’s uniform as it has to be correct in all details.

“He’s on stage for about 35 seconds. I think it’s going to cost us about £1.50 for every second that he’s on stage,” said Sue.

The wardrobe mistress at Handsworth and Hallam Operatic Society really helped Sue out of a bind when she couldn’t find a suitable boy’s overcoat.

No problem, she said, and made one from scratch.

Props were easier to come by. “We have a lot of things of that era as we were formed in 1945,” said Sue.

“A lot of our members are over 60 now, so we also had stuff in our houses.”

Denys Edwards Players are no strangers to the Crucible Studio and Carrie’s War follows their reputation of producing family favourites there in the summer.

Their previous successes there have included Anne of Green Gables, The Canterbury Tales, The Darling Buds of May and last summer’s Treasure Island.

Carrie’s War is at the Crucible Studio from next Tuesday, August 13, to Saturday 17 at 7.15pm with a 2.15pm matinee on Saturday.

Tickets are £10.50, with concessions for the matinee at £9.

Box office: call 0114 249 6000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.