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New Era Players - Heroes

12th to 21st June 2014.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

New Era's splendid old boys

New Era Players: Heroes, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Tuesday, June 12 to Saturday, June 21

The long-awaited extension to the New Era Players' theatre was available to use for their latest production, and although not fully finished, it is a welcome addition, providing much more foyer space and toilets.

Gerald Sibleyras' Olivier comedy award winner Heroes, translated by Tom Stoppard, was a splendid choice. It is a funny delightful and poignant play set in 1959 in a French home for veteran soldiers from the First World War, with all of the action taking place on a 'private' sunlit terrace.

It is run by nuns under the vigilant presence of the strict controlling Sister Madeleine who we never actually see.

Three very disparate characters meet each day to reminisce about long lost battles, gossip about the daily goings on and bitch about the other residents and with each other.

One is lame with a gammy leg, the second is agoraphobic and the last suffers from a piece of shrapnel in his head that causes him to collapse at a moment's notice sometimes in mid sentence.

Director Anne Oldham has a truly talented cast, a real joy to watch as they plan their escape from the home to the poplar trees on a distant hill.

Keith Phillips is superb as the enthusiastic, dapper Henri, the oldest resident, having spent 25 years in the home and a certain penchant for a young lady teacher in the nearby girls' school.

Philippe, impressively played by David Zeke, has been in residence for 10 years and is convinced that Sister Madeleine murders veterans based on their birthday in order not to celebrate two such events on the same day His fears are heightened with the arrival of an officer who shares his birthday.

Completing the trio is Gustav, a born leader whose six-month tenure at the sanatorium consists of 'room, terrace, tepid soup and bed'. He is perfectly realised by Neil Taylor.

What is particularly impressive is the chemistry and comic timing between these three actors. Each brings a touching and individual interpretation to their characters as they draw the audience into their world of dreams and aspirations.

This was a tender, moving and thoroughly enjoyable production that is highly recommended.