Greenham: One Hundred Years of War and Peace
8th to 9th September 2017
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Glorious Greenham Common
Spectacular community event celebrates the common's rich history
GREENHAM: One Hundred Years of War and Peace, at Greenham Common, on Friday, September 8 and Saturday, September 9
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the demilitarisation of Greenham Common and the establishment of Greenham Common Trust (now Greenham Trust) a highly-ambitious community spectacular was presented on the remaining section of the runway.
Sensitively written Beth Flinttoff, Greenham: One Hundred Years of War and Peace involved hundreds of local people, who donned costumes of various periods to perform in this huge outdoor extravaganza.
As a precursor to the performance, on entering the common, you passed by Civil War re-enactors and a First World War white tank with soldiers dressed in white battle uniforms, representing the fallen. It was interesting to watch street artist Mohammed Ali create incredible murals using spray paint.
The women's Peace Camp, with banners, slogans and even bras hanging from the fence reminded you of the anti-nuclear war protesters during the Cold War and the local people who wanted the camp and the women to go. On small stages, different scenes were acted out, depicting specific eras of the common, while the Apollo Big Band played the music of Glen Miller and uniformed Americans danced to the sounds of the 40s, beautifully choreographed by Rachel Deazek and it certainly created the mood. As the main show began, there was a procession of 10 silk banners, produced by local community groups and illustrating aspects of the common followed by families with lanterns and, of course, the GIs.
The story of the common was narrated through the eyes of Peggy (Paola Dionisotti) who lived on the common all her life. It began in 1930, where we saw her school days, before she started work, aged 14, as a servant for the Baxendale family at Greenham Lodge.
With the outbreak of war, everything was to change and, as part of her contribution to the war effort, Peggy started work at Elliotts of Newbury, making gliders.
She also fell in love with a US airman at one of the many dances held and a lasting romance ensued.
As war intensified, evacuees arrived, but Newbury was also bombed so it wasn't such a safe haven.
The 1970s saw the arrival of the Ugandan Asian refugees, who were billeted at the camp and welcomed into the community.
Peggy's granddaughter joined the peace protesters as the Americans returned and Cruise missiles arrived.
In an emotional and moving ending, Peggy reminded us to remember the "stories of thousands of people under your feet".
This exceedingly impressive community production included a massive choir of adults and children, directed by Cathal Garvey, with haunting emotive music throughout, composed by Nick Bicat. There was excellent inventive use of video projection, designed by Joe Slathers, on a huge screen on the stage that helped to enhance the historical events and stunning lighting by Phil Supple.
Produced by Oxford-based Rosa Productions and skilfully directed by Sophie Austin, with incredible stage management, this was a wonderful experience and the vast audience gave a richly-deserved ovation. Bravo to all!