Each of the characters was affected by the war differently and their stories were interwoven in a way that allowed them all a chance to tell theirs. The characters included two brothers-Paul and Patrick- who's method for surviving was depending on each other; and who then had to learn how to adapt when the oldest is called away to join the army, a cunning evacuee named Barbara, who is willing to do what it takes to survive. Even if it means stealing from homes as the sirens screech.
Joining them were Millie, an assertive girl who has a particular dislike for evacuees but longs to be able to help in the war effort-seeking to become a nurse, a young man named Seymour, who hopes his father will return home soon and a lost soul named Caig, who has given up on people after being forced to evacuate from London and now lives alone in the ruin of St Mary's church.
The Second World War is a topic covered as part of the Secondary school syllabus and our group decided that they wanted their show to approach the topic from a different angle. They discussed at length how many different mediums, such as film, theatre and literature, portrayed the war through the eyes of adults: politicians, workers and soldiers. From this the group decided that 'On the Homefront' would shift its gaze from a show generally about the war, to one focused on what life was like for young people, characters their own ages, during this time.
The cast worked throughout the weeks exploring what different lives would have been life was like during the Blitz. We went on a trip to the Royal Albert Memorial museum where we gathered information combined with historical accounts to help shape our piece.
The group shaped their own characters following a series of guided improvisations and explored the relationships between them. Following an account discovered whilst researching the time period, we explored the relationship (and conflict) between those who were originally from Exeter and the evacuees from the city. The dynamic we established was an interesting one for many of the characters in the show. Some enjoyed the company and concept of the evacuees; while others remained cold and abrasive towards them.
After the characters were created the cast worked on drafting a storyline which was then turned into a script. We wanted to show progression and give each character an individual story. The play itself would span the years of the war and in doing so allow every character a chance to build, as well as letting the audience see their development with each scene. Each of the scenes created was a snapshot of the characters lives during that particular year.
One thing that we are really passionate about at Anthos is giving our performers that opportunity to create theatre that interests them. Our last project ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was a take on one of Shakespeare's well known comedies which the cast worked on bringing into the modern era. With this project, however, we wanted to offer the group more freedom of choice and ownership of the piece by selecting the theme and allowing them the opportunity to shape it.
‘On the Homefront’ was born following a discussion with the group about topics they were interested in exploring. Following recent events such as the anniversary of the First World War and frequent new stories; the group decided they wanted to look at doing a show focusing on the Second World War.
One of the most interesting and delightful parts of the project was watching these characters interact with each other in a variety of situations. Once the cast had formed the basis of their characters we would give them a broad range of stimuli and ask them to improvise different scenes in their roles. In doing these improvisations the cast were able to bring new aspects of their characters and the overall story to light. We uncovered secrets from their past and discovered new potentially storyline routes to explore. This worked very well when it came to creating the family backgrounds for the characters; as they would often find themselves talking about aspects of home as we fired air raid sirens and dimmed the lights during their rehearsals.
We additionally wanted to add a physical element into the piece. This transpired during the opening. The cast went about their days as they normally would, highlighting the almost disturbingly normal side to life during the world war. For many of the characters, the daily actions they created involved attending school and work, building up to the evening, where everyone would go home and get into bed, only to be woken by the air raid sirens as the bombs began to drop. This was a strong method of introducing the themes and characters of the play, as it portrayed the good side of the war and the hope that people had; as well as the horrific elements of it all.
The project was brought together by the group working exceptionally hard and taking ownership of the rehearsal process. We challenged the cast every week but they continued to rise to the occasion and produce incredible work. 'On the Homefront' was undoubtedly one of our most ambitious projects to date- but likewise there is no questioning that it is also one of our best and most memorable.
Head Facilitator- Ben Goulding
Assistant Facilitator- Jake Celecia
We would like to say a massive thank you to Exeter Community Centre for supporting the project, as well as Jon Primrose and the University of Exeter for providing us with an incredible space for the performance and both technical and physical support as well. We would also like to say thank you to Carly Ellicott for assisting us on performance day and to all of the parents, family and friends who attended. Thank you for your kindess and support of our work.