The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

“Heroes” At The Archway Theatre, Horley….Starring The Aged P (aka Henri)…lol…(Vanity Post)


Review of “Heroes” By Gerald Sibleyras

Archway Theatre, Horley, Feb 2013


There is always a look of disbelief when I observe that annually there are more tickets sold for theatre performances than for football events. But why do we go to the theatre, a medium that requires a high element of imagination and tolerance of the “non reality”? It is not an easy activity – you are obliged to keep perfectly still, no rustle of sweetie papers, uncomfortable seats, large heads in front of you etc – but still we keep going. I know why I go. I love to be shocked, surprised, amused and to learn about the  human condition. I love to hear our beautiful English language (Tom Stoppard offers us the best) and, most of all, I love knowing that the artists are giving something of themselves to we, the audience.


Our “Heroes” and those mysterious ghosts who sorted out the set between each scene all certainly gave something of themselves to their audience in this production. It was a sweet and gentle experience for me.


The introduction music smoothly took us to the location of the play and as the curtain opened a sunny veranda was revealed. Gary Andrews, the set designer, tells us that “the hardest thing with this kind of set on such a small stage is to create a sense of distance”. Gary achieved that illusion with Liz Delafaille and Nicholas Merrick’s beautifully executed backdrop, the stone wall surrounding and lovely stone floor.


Eddie Redfern’s lighting and sound was subtle and appropriate. I was particularly impressed with the sound of the flying geese. I was able to “see” their flying route until they disappeared over the horizon. Not an easy task in such a small theatre.


The play itself is a kindly look at three WW1 veterans living in a residential home in France. We witnessed these elderly men trying to make sense of their narrow, restricted lives whilst plotting to escape the clutches of the Sisters caring for them. Their lives were made all the sweeter in their friendship,their bickering and the fact that they were the only users of “their” verandah. The knowledge that other inmates may soon occupy their space because of building works elsewhere was the impulse for the plans for escape (to Indo China or – maybe – just beyond the poplar trees).


On the evening I attended, the performances took some time to establish (never overlook the importance of a pre-performance warmup), but once the actors settled in, they told us a tender story with honesty and compassion. Tom Haddon’s Gustave was biting and verging on the vindictive.He made no effort to be liked, wishing his fellow retirees to know that he was superior to them. His brisk manner and beautifully cut suit camouflaged his internal anxieties. We gradually learned that he is fallible and afraid, but only at the end of the play do we actually see the physical manifestation of this. Tom handled Gustave’s breakdown as a man not used to showing his despair with enormous subtlety.


David Riddick as Henri, the eternal optimist, a man dressed for comfort played this character with great energy, did not overact. Henri’s age and physical fragility, and his kindness and empathy for his fellow inmates came through with charm and sympathy.


Philippe,performed by Clive Grieg was a jolly character and his fainting moments were convincing. It was a joyful moment in the play when we realised that his shouts when coming to from the faints did not relate to his activities on the battlefields but those at a local brothel – I half expected his bow tie to swivel at this revelation!


These three actors worked as a close and supportive team, comfortable with each other and their characters. This must have come from the expert direction of Yvonne Lee who will have worked to ensure that they understood their importance in the play. Yvonne moved her actors with quiet confidence and commitment and never “forced” a move or emotion that did not fit the roles or the play.


Hercule – well – I think the best description of his acting would be “wooden”. They say never act with animals – even those made of stone. How true.


Thank you to the cast and crew for a lovely evening. (PS: lovely cup of coffee too).



Sue Harrington



More about the original London production here

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