Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Cheer up my lads bless 'em all

The Long and The Short and The Tall

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse


WILLIS Hall’s powerful and often brutal account of a group of soldiers fighting both themselves and the enemy was controversial stuff when it premiered at The Royal Court in 1959. 

Fifty five years on, it still packs a punch. Proof that good writing does not date - even if political correctness goes out the window.

The play is littered with terms and language that would be deemed unacceptable today. To cut it, though, or even to dilute it would detract from the reality and grit of the dialogue.

It is of its time and anything different would be inaccurate and far less interesting. Credit to director, Rosemary Manjunath for sticking to her guns and staying loyal to Hall’s original script.

An all male cast bond beautifully from start to finish, each displaying separate and well-drawn characteristics.

Dexter Whitehead leads the line impressively as Sgt Mitchem - barking orders one minute and wresting with own conscience, the next.

Robert Newton, as the cocksure Bamforth, struts and backchats with real energy and excellent timing. Armed not only with a gun but most of the non pc lines, he delivers with conviction.

Joe Hicklin broods as McCleish - a seemingly dour Scot with an abilty to turn at any second. 

Fine performances, too from David Thane, George Wyton, Aarron Armstrong-Craddock and Gary Pritchard.

Poor Jason Lee is pushed and shoved rather a lot as The Japanese Soldier. Not a speaking part but a pivotal one none the less.

Attention to detail is excellent - from costume to set, through to a lighting plot that suggests a very hot and sticky location.

This is a play packed with tension and pace. Language may be industrial at times but its never gratuitous and only reflective of how it actually was. Willis Hall should know, he was a soldier after all.

The Grange Players have a long and proud history of producing diverse and quality theatre. This does nothing to dent that reputation. Tickets are selling fast - snap them up while you can! To 22-03-14. 

Tom Roberts 


And from the deep in the jungle . . .


BLESS ‘em all. The eight-strong cast of this Willis Hall Second World War drama spend most of the time inside a deserted storage hut in the Malayan jungle but manage to convey the full range of emotional situations on the verge of impending conflict.

Seven of them are a British army patrol hoping to reach base camp 15 miles away, but their fading radio picks up faint Japanese voices and suddenly the soldiers are in great peril.

The first act is fairly low key, with petty arguments between the troops creating most of the interest and Londoner Private Bamforth turning out to be a real barrack room lawyer who could pick a fight in an empty lift.

But ‘Bammo’, superbly played by Robert Newton, shows a far more pleasant side to his personality after the group capture a Japanese soldier, treat him roughly, and eventually have to consider killing him to improve their chances of escape.

That is where the play really shows its teeth, with Dexter Whitehead giving a powerful performance as the heavy smoking Sgt ‘Mitch’ Mitchem who has to keep the peace between his own men while planning to try to save their skins.

The set - the interior of a wooden hut - is fairly simple, but  jungle views through two windows create realism in a play well directed by Rosemary Manjunath.

David Thane (Cpl Johnstone), Joseph Hicklin (L/Cpl McLeish), George Wyton (Pte Whitaker), Aarron Armstrong-Craddock (Pte Evans) and Gary Pritchard (Pte Smith) all contribute well, while Jason Lee is excellent as the bullied Japanese solider, without saying a word. To 22-03-14.

Paul Marston 

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