The Accrington Pals

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War Gainford Drama Club performed ‘The Accrington Pals’ – an excellent choice to commemorate and remember all those who lost their lives in that most devastating of military campaigns. So many of the young men sent to fight who lost their lives on the first day of the Somme conflict were from the ‘Pals’ regiments and the play shows the build up to war and the effect that the war had on the loved ones left behind.

‘The Accrington Pals’ is a story about the relationships between the men and their loved ones, but also between the Pals and between the Lancashire women left behind as their menfolk went off to war. It also explores the madness of the industrialised slaughter of the Great War and as such, it was an interesting choice of drama to mark the 100th anniversary. The commitment from all concerned with the production gave this a powerful and emotional theatrical statement.

The simple set consisted of two grocery stalls which, when covered became the interior of May’s house as well as the trenches, as ingenious design which together with effective props providing the necessary arena and atmosphere for the play. Costumes were also excellent and added just the necessary amount of both historical accuracy and authenticity to the piece. 

The performance of the cast was consistently good, sometimes excellent, a standard audiences have come to expect from Gainford Drama Club. The character of May Hassall is something of a force of nature in the play and is in many ways the real focus of the drama. There’s something of a no-nonsense aspect of the character of May Hassall, well portrayed by Josephine Longstaff and I enjoyed the brisk and domineering take on the mighty May. Glyn Casswell’s performance as Tom Hackford was very powerful; never overplayed and with a naturalistic approach which worked well in expressing the ‘real’ man behind the stage character, also making a great job of putting across Tom’s artistic side without overdoing it. Luke Van Dijk really embraced the role of Ralph, perfectly encapsulating his youthful enthusiasm and puppyish enthusiasm: he coped manfully with ‘that’ scene in the bath too! Full marks Luke. Lizzy Rawlings, Emma Simpson and Bethany Lewis Burrows (in her debut role) brought a youthful enthusiasm to the roles of Eva, Sarah and Bertha respectively, with Ethan Rawlins, also in his first production for the club, as Reggie Boggis. Annie and Arthur Boggis were played by Alison Ivanec (another debutant for the Club) and Allan Jones, who also directed the production! Arthur is a quietly innocent creation; softly spoken, humble and with a simple and direct moral code, the polar opposite to the force of nature that was Annie. Alison captured the essence of the Northern working-class experience and channelled it through the outrageous Annie Boggis! Keith Irons, becoming a regular performer, completed the cast list as CSM Rivers, adding an authentic military presence to the production.

This was a strong production which made the most of the source material, taking on the story with very clever use of the stage and scenery which added an extra layer of interest to the material.

With the significant number of scene changes and the atmosphere generated praise must go to the Lighting and Sound team headed by John Lowery as well as to Props lead by Ann Napier for the collection of articles which gave life to the production.

As the timing of the production aligned with the end of the First World War, Gainford was remembering those men who lost their lives during the conflict and this was reiterated by a display of the Somme battle and those that had lost their lives.

Overall a very successful and poignant evening’s entertainment.