Pathos and humour in beautiful balance

COURAGE comes in many forms, as was graphically illustrated in the many facets which made up Over The Top, Bright Lights Theatre Company’s latest production.

Bright Lights performance of original WW2 revue
Bright Lights performance of original WW2 revue

Sue Hughes wrote and compiled the show as a commemoration of the sacrifices of WW1. However, last year’s intended centenary production was put back when Sue suffered the loss of her husband and theatrical soul-mate, Trevor.

Bravely, Sue has now gone “over the top” herself - directing Bright Lights to a triumphal success. This cleverly-crafted production with its moody lighting took audiences on an historical tour-de-force. The medium was a grieving grandfather helping children met at a Remembrance parade with their school projects.

It was not all muck-and-bullets but beautiful balance between pathos and humour, grief and grit graced the music of the era.

Highlights included Dick Coomber’s telling two-part rendition of Kipling’s “Tommy” and a re-work of the trench-humour sketch from Trevor’s show Don’t Forget Your Gasmask.

We saw Suffragettes discarding their banners to take on war-work; ”all be over by Christmas” recruits walking into the unknown and a music hall tribute featuring guest singer Sue French.

Dick Coomber penned a camp parody of front-line football and guest Tony Mansi’s magnificent bass underlined the irony of the squaddy’s anthem When This Lousy War Is Over.

There was fun and entertainment aplenty. But Sue wove in some heart-wrenching moments –the 1914 Christmas truce with Silent Night in English and German, letters from wives and sweethearts, hurried lines from Tommies, awkward condolences from officers, and Alma Charnock’s reading of poem A Dawn Breaks.

The crowning moment of this miracle in a minute church hall was the entry of a shuffling line of blinded Tommies – a stunning evocation of John Singer Sargent’s painting, Gassed.

All credit to the talented cast - Debs Bligh, Alma Charnock, Sarah Dennis, Sally Gander, Petra Holland, Vicky Jones, Sue McNaughton, Marie Rayner, Lynn Riggs, Katie Webster, Kate West, Chloe Willis, Dick Coomber, Alan Gates, Gil James, Pete Riggs, Neil Trimby, Luke Webster. Susie Crawley, Celia Taylor, Courtney McMarron, Max Taylor, Molly Turner, Joe West, plus guests Sue French and Tony Mansi - but an Over The Top medal for Sue Hughes.