Carrie's War

from the novel by Nina Bawden, adapted by Emma Reeves 29 Mar 2024 - 12 Apr 2024

presented by the Minack Theatre

A new life, new friends and a secret that could destroy it all… 

12 year old Carrie and her younger brother are uprooted from their home and family by war and evacuated from London to a remote part of Wales where harsh Mr Evans makes them work in his shop and obey his strict rules. They are lonely and bewildered until they meet Albert Sandwich, a boy unlike anyone else, and discover Druid’s Bottom, home to Hepzibah, a warm-hearted witch, the frail Mrs Gotobed and the gentle Mr Johnny. Then one day, Hepzibah tells them the story of an ancient skull and a terrifying curse…

When Carrie returns years later to Druid’s Bottom with her own children, she has to face up to a terrible secret, one she has never before revealed.

Nina Bawden’s award-winning children’s novel was inspired by her own wartime experience of evacuation. Emma Reeves stunning adaptation captures all the childhood joys and struggles of growing up in this much-loved book.

Perfect for age 8+

Review by Jane Pugh

Yes, I'm of the generation that avidly watched the television adaptation of Carrie's War back in the 1970s when I was a kid of about Carrie's age so, I'm a massive fan of the story, the setting and the characters. But, on a very windy night at The Minack, I checked with one of the young ushers to see what he thought of the play adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves from the novel by Nina Bawden and he said, 'I've watched it three times so far and I haven't got bored yet.' So, it's great to report that this is a story that is as relevant as it ever was, perhaps more so. It's a story about Carrie and her little brother, Nick, living in a small mining town in Wales as evacuees, having fled their London home during World War II just as so many child refugees today have left behind everything they know.

We follow Carrie navigating the perplexing adult world full of past secrets and present day regrets and in doing so she develops her own beliefs and principles, her own understanding of what's right and wrong. It's about familial loyalty against the need to escape, of rich mine owners against the working poor, of keeping the peace against speaking the truth.

And this is all sensitively and deftly brought to the Minack stage by director, John Brolly, and his extremely able actors, musicians and crew. On the night I was there the role of Carrie was played by Poppy Livingstone with verve and drive and authenticity, in fact, all the actors brought an honesty to their characters, with performances that were well rounded, economically realised and 100% believable. And they pretty much nailed the Welsh accent and language.

It's hard to evoke Wales in Cornwall but this it achieved thanks to a strange and abstract live music score by Ben Sutcliffe with potent rumbling kettle drums and spritely piano. The Welsh hymns sang in the Welsh language were genuinely moving. Mind you, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved. I personally, was super-impressed by Marion Harrison's costumes, the tones and textures, tawny, purple, slate grey, evoked the sense of place that is both rural and industrial. Partnered with the set designed by Elroy Ashmore,  provocative and intriguing stone arches that seeped with historical and mythical energy. What was also a clever decision was the absolute minimum use of props, which kept the space uncluttered enabling the actors to simply crack on with the story.

If I had to be picky, I'd say it was tidgy bit long as scenes here and there could be trimmed to keep the overall running time a little shorter. After all, it is April and we're up against the elements. But that wouldn't put me off. The Minack has a well deserved reputation for delivering stirring, thought provoking children's classic adventure stories and this rendition of Carrie's War will only enhance its reputation further.