Night of terror for Sheffield is relived in drama at the Crucible

The bomb that demolished the Marples Hotel in Sheffield during the Blitz in December 1940 caused the city's worst single loss of life that night.

Thursday, 1st September 2016, 2:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st September 2016, 3:51 pm
Operation Crucible at Sheffield

It has always been the ambition of the writer of a play about that terrible night to bring the story to the city where the disaster happened.

Operation Crucible looks at four men trapped in the cellar.

Although it’s set against a backdrop of the real situation, the men aren’t based on real people.

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Writer Kieran Knowles, who also appears in the play, said: “It’s a story of the wartime everyman, the guys under the bombs rather than the ones dropping them.

“They are four steelworkers.

“For the first half they are working a shift and halfway through the play the sirens start blaring.

“You find out what happened that night, including being trapped in the Marples Hotel. It’s an exploration of their heroism or lack of it.”

Kieran said that he’d looked at the history of the Sheffield Blitz when he started the research for the play.

“The first draft was research, research, research.

“The playwright who taught us at LAMDA drama college said, ‘at some point you’ve got to let the history go and just write the play. The research is there and you’ve just got to trust it’.

“The setting is Sheffield but it’s more about the men’s relationships than the city, them pulling together for the war effort.

“I tried to get that at the heart of it.”

Kieran spoke about the response to the play, which has toured once and has now been revived after a year.

“It’s been amazing. Every time we did it, seemed that there was someone who’d lived through those times in the audience.

“There was someone in Colchester who stuck around after the show and said it had taken them back there.”

As someone who has only lived in peacetime, Kieran said it was amazing to think of a time when Sheffielders had to live with the idea that someone 300 yards over their heads wanted to kill them.

“That’s such a scary thought. I’ve never had to deal with it.”

He is excited the play is finally coming to Sheffield. “The Crucible was always our ultimate aim. It’s Operation Crucible achieved.”

One of the actors, Sheffielder Salvatore D’Aquilla, is also very pleased to be back on home turf.

Operation Crucible is at the Crucible from September 7 to 24. Box office: 0114 249 6000or Sheffield Theatres