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D-Day 75

4th to 5th June 2019

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Newbury’s own D-Day

Community 'tour-de-theatre' at Greenham involved 87 performers

D-Day 75, at 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space at Greenham Business Park, on Tuesday, June 4, and Wednesday, June 5

As part of the 75th commemoration of the D-Day landings, The Watermill theatre, Corn Exchange and Greenham Trust commissioned a new play, D-Day 75 – skilfully and sensitively written by Danielle Pearson and inventively directed by Georgie Staight.

This ambitious inclusive community project, performed at the recently extended 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space at Greenham Business Park had a cast of 87 local people, from the very young to senior citizens.

As the audience entered the building, we were transported back to the 1940s, when the common was home to the RAF and the growing number of American troops.

In this immersive part of the production we experienced some of the preparations, with young troops being drilled under camouflage netting, some relaxing and playing cards, others checking maps.

An American jeep, a command base caravan and a black-and-white film starring Bob Hope set the time period perfectly.

In a marvellous tour-de-theatre, the whole audience dramatically entered a second space through the doors of a landing craft and so the story of the days before the invasion unfolded.

It was performed in the round and the atmosphere created was powerful, with the action taking place in various locations all around the audience, including an imposing huge central structure used to great effect.

The stories of the people of Newbury and the military were told in a series of vignettes. We experienced the big picture, with the officers desperately hoping for good weather for the huge task ahead and the decisions they would have to make.

We met folk in the bustling pub, the fleeting romance between Eva and young US sergeant Becket and the tensions of the troops from the 101st Airborne Division as the clock began to count down to the start of Operation Overlord.

We heard General Eisenhower's rousing speech, with archive film projected on to the walls and then actual footage of the landings.

The cast re-enacted their bumpy flight over France and stylistically portrayed their parachute jump, with a group of boys impressively using physical theatre and dance. The poignant atmosphere created at the end was palpable as flowers were laid in remembrance while the choir sang We'll Meet Again and a roll of honour was projected. Most moving.

The large cast were most impressive, performing with total commitment and bringing their characters to life.

All who took part are to be congratulated on this splendid production, which ended in a celebratory tea dance with a live band and an energetic display from youngsters and seniors.

This was community theatre at its very best.