(2012) The Third Tunnel

The Third Tunnel 2012


Keep calm and carry on
A Class Act: The Third Tunnel, at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, from Thursday, March 8 to Saturday, March 10


A Class Act returned to Arlington Arts to re-stage their 2003 production of The Third Tunnel. The play, written and directed by David Slade, takes place in London during the Blitz, interweaving several plot lines to show the lives of the ordinary, mostly working class people, left behind while the soldiers are fighting abroad.

It could have easily been a story laced with tragedy; what with the sound of bombs between sets, a wife leaving her husband for the local spiv and a group of young children accidentally creating an explosion by detonating an old
weapons cache found in the deepest tunnel of the underground. However, what shone through was the pioneering spirit of those who were left behind: to carry
on no matter what.

To enable this spirit to shine forth, the cast gave hearty performances of classic wartime songs including Hold your Hand out, you Naughty Boy. Zandra Forder gave a heartfelt rendition of Freedom, giving an honest insight into her character, despite a few minor difficulties with the
microphone.

Phil Campbell ran the show as the charismatic Ralph, who we first meet conning an old man into buying a ticket to a non-existent part of the underground. Upon finding out later, the old man exclaims it to be "wonderful,
that entrepreneurship can still exist in such hard times".


With too many other names to list in a play where everyone performed with a marvellous vigour and enthusiasm, a special mention has to go to the gang of children. Left to their own devices while their parents were preoccupied with the war effort, Shanay Thomas, Katie Elliott, Liz Murray, Caitlin Barron, Mary Williams, the cheeky Mark Coates, the hilarious Rebekah Spencer and the gangleader William Cohen, excelled in creating a sense of mischief, adventure and humour throughout.

The show was rounded off by a delicately and beautifully sung rendition of I Vow to Thee My Country, led by Kate Leek, which embodied the stirring sense of pride that those who lived through such times are renowned for and, indeed, those who performed tonight should feel at their own
achievements.


DANIEL MORTON

NATIONAL OPERATIC AND DRAMATIC ASSOCIATION

LONDON REGION

 

Society           ;           A Class Act Theatre Company

Production     ;           THE THIRD TUNNEL

Date                ;           9th March 2012

Venue             ;           Arlington Arts, Newbury

Report by       ;           Barrie Theobald NODA London Membership Secretary

 

Deputising for Henry Hawes your NODA Area Representative, I was delighted to attend the Arlington Centre, Newbury to review your latest production, a play with music set against the background of the world war two London blitz in 1940/41.  For 57 consecutive days and nights from 7th September 1940 German bombers invoked a series of arial assaults on the city before Hitler realised his attempts to demoralize the population was having little effect and turned his attention to the invasion of Russia.

 

Your Chairman David Slade, who also wrote and directed the show, is to be congraulated on his detailed research of the period, particularly relating to the role the Underground played providing overnight accomodation away from the bombing in some of their deeper tunnels. Whilst the use of closed stations to provide safe overnight shelters is well documented, little is generally known of the myriad of permanently closed station  and branch lines etc, that, even to this day, lie gathering dust somewhere under the capital and David touched on this with "The Third Tunnel" that did, in fact,exist at the Aldwych station but which, I understand, was never in operational use.

 

The play opened in a New York servicemen's club, a scene I felt was solely included as an excuse to start with the very energetic dance routine we saw, (mainly the CO2 Dance Company, enhanced by six of your own members).  The choreographer had cleverly taken the abilities of each individual dancer into account, giving them all opportunities to perform a few 'solo' steps and it would have been lovely to have seen them perform again (as another 'cheer-up' act in the shelter perhaps).

 

Watching the production brought back many memories of my personal childhood experiences of the war in what was considered to be a safe haven in the West Country (although I recall being grabbed by my mother whan as a five year-old I stood on our back garden wall waving at a stray German bomber who was strafing the town as well as the many nights when sleep was interupted by enemy planes overhead, the nearest bombs dropping just two streets away).

 

PHIL CAMPBELL (Ralph) gave a first-rate performance as the Cockney wide-boy - into all sorts of black market dodges.  His rapport with both the street gang and the adults of the company was good and, along the way, he captured Reenie's charms!

 

ZANDRA FORDER (Reenie) returned her wedding ring to her Policeman husband after falling for Ralph's charms and deciding that a life with the wideboy would prove more exciting than her present existance.  Zandra handled this gentle role well.  She also sang the number 'Freedom' (specially written for the show by Wendy Orpwood) denoting her newly found 'single' status.

 

SHAUN BLAKE (Policeman) performed well and also danced in the opening sequence.  In truth, Shaun was probably a little short for a London policeman of the era.

 

KATE LEEK (Connie) one half of the 'upper-class' pair who, whilst initially uncomfortable in the underground surrounded by people she would have normally avoided, found herself attracted more and more to Charlie (possibly initially as a 'bit of rough' - or did she really feel she could encourage him to change his ways and serve his country?).  Kate sang several of the solo numbers.

 

TASHA KENDALL (Gertie /  Alice) with the help of her blonde wig, Tasha was able to slip comfortably between her two contrasting characters - the caring Cockney and 'posh' Alice, Connie's original companion.  The humour in both roles was nicely handled.

 

GARY BROWN (Charlie)  gave a very confident performance.  Initially we saw him with Winnie until he became attracted to the 'upper crust' Connie with whom he shared several musical numbers and, encouraged by her, he reconsidered his life style and became something of a hero when the bombs fell.

 

STEVE PROUT (Alby)  the wisecracking cockney, caught in a series of unfortunate situations. This was another portrayal where the humour was well handled.

 

TRISTAN ASHBY (Ardle)  portrayed one half of an Irish duo - always on the lookout for a crafty dodge.  Despite his exasperation with the dim Paddy, we also saw the protective camaraderie he had for his mate.

 

PETE RICHINGS (Paddy)  was very entertaining as the thick half of the Irish duo and, with quick costume changes, also appeared as Tim.

 

Camo roles performed by SIOBHAN COATES, BOB PHILLIPS, JOHNNY GIBBS, ELLIE SELBY, WENDY ORPWOOD and PAIGE MACKAY appeared in street scenes and in the underground station etc:

 

The storyline also involved a 'gang' of children who had not been evacuated and in some of the scenes they stole the show.  WILLIAM COHEN excelled as the gang leader 'Josey' although he certainly had his work cut out handling the unruly REBEKAH SPENCER (Slimey), SHANAY THOMAS (Four Eyes) complete, of course, with her glasses, KATIE ELLIOTT (Knock Knees), LIZ MURRAY (Kate), CAITLIN BARRON (Jenny) MARY WILLIAMS (Mary) and MARK COATES the cheeky (Charlie Junior).  They enjoyed playing in the streets, making nuisances of themselves in the Underground where they found the hidden arms cache and explored the closed tunnel, almost with tragic results.

 

PRODUCTION

 

There were twenty-two different scenes utilizing ten or so different locations, some depicted by cloths, some by more solid scenery and some by just a few appropriate props.  Continuity frequently suffered between scenes and in some instances I felt there were quicker ways the changes could have been achieved - e.g. Scenes 20 and 21 could have been set on opposite sides of the stage rather than striking 20 and setting 21 in the same area before the action continued.  The main delay occurred each time we visted the working platform or the third tunnel at Aldwych and setting them to the rear of the cloths took all the major action uopstage.  Of course, I have no idea of the backstage areas at Arlington Arts so cannot really make suggestions how these problems could be resolved.  I just felt it was such a shame that the interesting book suffered with poor continuity in that way.  I wasn't so impressed by the 'lit' lamppost and waited for an air raid warden to call 'put that light out', restoring the prevailing war-time blackout!!  However, the simple changes to depict the difference between the 'live' platform and the third tunnel platform very clearly and concisely indicated the two different locations.  The programme was well balanced, containing a good mix of adverts and company information and profiles of the cast etc:  I was particularly impressed by the programme cover that set the scene for the scenes underground.

 

MUSIC  All the musical numbers were accompanied by pre-recorded music.  It was an obvious indication of my advancing years when I realised that (apart from Freedom) I not only knew all the tunes, but I knew all the lyrics too!  Some of the numbers sung on the platform suffered slightly with poor projection, the performers occasionally turning away from the audience whislt they were singing.  However, the ensemble numbers were delivered wih gusto by the company (with Ardle and Paddy adding their own touch to There'll Always Be An England.  Sometimes the songs were printed in the programme, sometimes not.

 

CLAIRE NUNN's  choreography, particularly in evidence during the lively jitterbug sequence in the opening number, was visually effective.  As I mentioned in my opening comments, it would have been a bonus to have had another of those energetic routines later in the show.

 

I enjoyed DAVID SLADE's direction of his own work and thank both him and the Company for thenostalgic entertaining evening I spentwith you.

 

 

Barrie Theobald

 

NODA London Membership Secretary

for Henry Hawes, Area Representative