An August Bank Holiday Lark, The Dukes - review

An August Bank Holiday Lark.
An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Amidst the battalions of dramas lined up to commemorate the outbreak of World War One few are as likely to be as effective – or moving – as this brand new play from Deborah McAndrew.

It’s a specially-commissioned work for Northern Broadsides theatre company so is naturally rooted to the region, on this occasion in the fictional Greenmill, halfway up a hill somewhere in East Lancashire.

As a drama about the effects of war on such a community it is bound to draw comparisons with The Accrington Pals, but in its use of a central stage motif – the annual rushcart ceremony – to signify change and lost tradition, it also borrows just a little of the War Horse effect.

With only a fraction of that production’s resources it lands, inevitably, the same sort of emotional punch.

The shock of inevitable bad news can make its audience palpably shake, or they can be equally moved to warmly applaud the song and dance sequences.

The moment that one such morris dance seamlessly becomes a martial march towards war is testament to both Barrie Rutter’s direction and Conrad Nelson’s music and choreography.

Even if you miss it here, before Saturday, well worth catching elsewhere.

David Upton