Lights go on for feelgood show

When the Lights Go on Again, presented by Stage Door Company, Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, until August 30.As we approach the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, on September 3, a production that reminds us of life on the Home Front is timely.

Lynne Mortimer

When the Lights Go on Again, presented by Stage Door Company, Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, until August 30.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, on September 3, a production that reminds us of life on the Home Front is timely.

The show, packed with the music of the era, takes us from the day war broke out to the VE celebrations in 1945. Although it touches little on tragedy, it is evocative and very definitely feel-good, with much of the humour - at times distinctly earthy - that saw the British people through those hard times.


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Many people in the packed audience were reliving those days, especially as the action is cleverly transposed to Felixstowe with local references and accents rekindling memories.

The story, told in episodes between musical interludes, revolves around the Parker family, father Fred (Richard Rumbellow), mum Alice (Julie Locke), Gran (Brenda Caddick), daughter Jane (Emily Anderson), son David (Tom Mayhew) and the two young 'uns, Susan (Taryn Mason) and little Jimmy (George Leeming) - excellent performances all round.

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Gran is a different generation and finds just about everything “disgusting” a term Jimmy delights in adopting as his own.

David joins up and goes into the Royal Navy, writing home to his sweetheart, Sylvia. Jane's intended is also called up and she receives loving missives from him.

The Parkers' war is one many of those old enough to have been there will recall. The air-raid shelter, the gas masks, gravy browning to create that stockinged-leg look, ration books, queues, bombing raids and friendship.

Authentic film footage, spliced with specially shot scenes featuring the cast are used to tremendous effect throughout. Shot in black and white in some brilliant locations in and around Felixstowe, they added enormously to the atmosphere of the piece as did Dudley Knights, in his convincing rendition of some of Winston Churchill's best known speeches.

The musical sections take place in the school - congratulations to the excellent young singers - at the dance hall, at an army camp and at the street party finale. Particularly impressive were the threesome who sang the Andrews Sisters' numbers. The band, under the direction of David Bolton, was especially great in the Glenn Miller and jazzier repertoire.

All the wartime favourites were there including The White Cliffs of Dover, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, This is the Army, Apple Blossom Time, Lily Marlene, We'll Meet Again and, of course, the title song.

As well as the laughter of recognition (eg knickers made from parachute silk) there was a storming attack of of quickfire repartee from Michael Richardson and Derek Dixey as the ARP wardens, and Alli Sparrow-Hewitt and Angie Robertson as raucous neighbours Vera and Elsie kept up the energy and pace.

It a long show but there is no doubt that it stirred many emotions and brought back a time of innocence - a time when patriotism was admirable, and everyone joined in the prayers and stood for the National Anthem.

Lynne Mortimer

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