The Wartime Picnics
- A love story set in the Kentish countryside during the Second World War
Louise Gold featured as Mother, Devine Art Ltd
Catalogue number: CD (Devine Art, Peter Cork Label) PCORK1
Grace - Heather Craney
David - David Holt
Mother - Louise Gold
Grandfather - Jeffrey Perry
Virginia (Grace’s Sister) - Dorothy Atkinson
The Narrator - John Rowe
Author - Peter Cork, April 2000.
Produced by - Piers Plowright
Conductor - Peter Cork
Oboe - David Theodore
Clarinet - Nicholas Rodwell
Violin - John Bradbury
Viola - William Hawkes
Cello - Andrew Shulman
Piano - Lindsay Bridgwater
Edited and Mixed by - David Chilton at Essential Music
Distributed by - MMC Ltd
1. Part 1
1. Part 2
David Holt and Louise Gold had previously appeared together as radio actors in Let ‘Em Eat Cake.
by Emma Shane, September 2004
This CD is quite unlike any other CD of a musical that I’ve bought before; most Musical CD’s I’ve bought have been albums of the songs, or “highlights” from a musical. However this CD is a complete audio recording of a musical, with all the dialogue. Therefore the experience of listening to it is more like listening to a musical on the radio, than listening to your average musical theatre CD. In many ways this is actually an improvement, as we hear the songs in context, and its a way for a little known show to find an audience. The only drawback, I felt, was that each of the two CD’s consisted of just one long track, around 52 minutes for Part 1 and 38 minutes for Part 2. Personally I would have preferred it if the discs had been split up into a few more tracks (like the audio book Richard Fawkes The History Of The Musical is), so that one did not necessarily have to listen to each disc all in one go. That said, one probably would choose to listen to it all at once, if only because the storyline is told quite grippingly, so that you do wonder what is going to happen next. Peter Cork’s music is pleasant, and very much invokes the period, and the styles of both the period and that immediately before it, though the only song where I felt tune to be catchy was one about On The Road To Canterbury, possibly because it was also repeated at various intervals. That said, there were a couple of good numbers about the deprivations of wartime. But by and large, I came away feeling more that I had heard a play with music rather than a musical as such. I think this was partly because the songs were so well integrated into the plot, rather like they can be in operetta.
For such a piece to work it is necessary to have actors who first and foremost would be good at radio acting, but who also have the ability to sing the kind of musical theatre that verges on operetta (such as Gilbert and Sullivan) well. On this album the casting is excellent. All the actors convey their characters convincingly, and all handle their singing parts effectively. As far as the singing went, naturally I noticed the women most, especially Louise Gold and Heather Craney. It was interesting to hear how the two sisters had quite high voices, whereas Mother’s was much more wide ranging, for the most part distinctly lower but richer and with more power, though she too has the ability to get up high when required. Of the men David Holt stood out as singing-wise. When it came to the acting, there was much less variation in ability, for everyone stood out in their own way. Naturally Heather Craney and David Holt were meant to be the stars of the piece, but generally it was an ensemble effort. I felt that Dorothy Atkinson was jolly convincing as the sophisticated young girl who is quite crazy about anything American. While Jeffrey Perry was quite excellent as the wise old Grandfather. As the Mother, Louise Gold had a splendid opportunity to demonstrate her considerable versatility, as the character is so very unlike many of her acting roles she has hitherto been known for. (This is not one or her wise-cracking-rich-superbitches-who-isn’t-really-a-bitch, nor a Battle-axe Contralto, and neither is it one of her brassy-likeable-unrefined-sexy-Lost Musicals-like-heroines). However it is certainly a type of character she can play, and really make something of the part while playing it, perhaps similar in a way to what Julia McKenzie might do with such a role (were she to play it), only better.
So is this album worth getting? Well its very pleasant to listen to, and if you’ve got 90 minutes to spare, a nice way to spend a quiet afternoon or evening. If you enjoy hearing the odd musical-play on the radio (at least when such a thing is well performed), then this album will probably be your cup of tea. Is it worth its price? Well that is up to each individual. I think its very reasonably priced. It’s a good piece of entertainment, and this is the only form in which it is publicly available. Work of this nature needs to be paid for one way or another, as Sondheim once expressed it in a lyric “Creating art is easy, financing it is not.” Well Devine Art Ltd has found a way to present new work to a high standard, and I think that’s worth paying a reasonable sum for. Finally, is it worth having for Louise Gold’s performance on it? I think it is, she is a fine actress, who is all too often best known as a puppeteer (“The English Muppet”) and a brassy singer (“An English Ethel Merman”). Her film and TV work as an actress has all too often underused her abilities. This CD is an opportunity to hear her get a decent acting part. If you only know of her as a puppeteer and singer (and especially if you haven’t had many opportunities to witness her live on stage), then it’s worth taking the chance to hear just how diverse a performer she really is.
Overall this album is an enjoyable, bittersweet, well performed piece, which one would probably want to listen to at least twice. For the performances are uniformly very good. It is very much an “English” piece, though Americans in particular might find something to amuse them in the character of Virginia. If you are the kind of person who wants to hear well written and well performed musical plays, then it is worth considering.
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