NO-ONE can ever imagine the fear experienced by the men who took to the skies to defend their country during the Second World War, but a group of young men from Duns are hoping to give the performance of their lives next week when they perform a play set in the aftermath of the Nuremberg Raid.
‘Bryclcreem Boys’ is based on playwright Peter Durrant’s conversations with his father about the war, and its appearance on the Volunteer Hall stage next week, in aid of Help For Heroes, is the end result of a chat director John Schofield had with a friend over dinner.
John said: “I was having a conversation with a friend over supper whose father was shot down over Germany. He said he’d read ‘Bryclreem Boys’ and it had haunted him ever since as it was such a powerful book.
“From there I got in touch with Peter Durrant and asked if it would be possible for us to perform it. He seemed keen and when I mentioned a charity performance for Help for Heroes he was happy to waive his royality fees.
“When we first thought about putting ‘Brylcreem Boys’ on the stage we didn’t have Armistice Day in mind but I think its rather apt how things have worked out.”
After being given the green light to give the Duns Players treatment to the play, John’s next task was to find a cast who would fill the shoes of the seven war heroes.
Without wishing to disrespect the youth of today, John said it was quite hard to canvas a group of young men who’d be up for it.
He explained: “Sterotypically, young men aren’t the easiest group of people to get involved in things so I wasn’t sure how I’d fill the roles.
“I knew Josh Bayles through Duns Opera so he was my first port of call and then he got in touch with someone he thought might be interested and a network was formed until we had our cast.”
And although he confessed to having to be “in school teacher mode” on the odd occasion, John said he was very impressed with how the cast, all in their late teens to early 20s, had approached the play.
“When these guys get it right it really hits you, bearing in mind that many of them have never set foot on a stage before. That’s the atonishment of youth I guess.
“They are energetic and intelligent and their huge enthusiasm for the play compensates for the times I’ve had to shout ‘learn your lines!’
“The first half of ‘Brylcreem Boys’ is very emotional and the second half is really harrowing but these lads have shown a great maturity to convey what would have been a horrific experience. I fully expect to have people in tears by the end of the performance - for the right reasons of course!”
As well as impressing John, the cast are hoping the audience at the Volunteer Hall will be shocked at how well they’ve taken to their task.
One of their number, Matthew Taylor, said: “I’ve always had an interest in World War Two and it’s been a really good play to be involved in.
“We got to go down to East Kirkby in Lincoln and see a real Lancaster bomber. We all had an idea of what one would look like but it’s not until you see it in metal that you realise its scale.”
Ben Foreman, who is taking on the role of the ‘Brylcreem Boys’ skipper, commented: “We’re fortunate that we’ve never had to live in a time where we’ve had to fight in such an awful environment. We don’t have to put ourselves in that predicament.”
Arron Robertson-Kane added: “You really have to put yourself in their shoes and visualise the scenario. And then there’s also the fact that some of the people who come along to see the show might have lived through the Second World War so we have to do justice to the period.”
‘Brlycreem Boys’ is set in a wartime hospital featuring injured men of all nationalities, giving some of the lads an extra task.
Patrick Watson explained: “We’ve got a Canadian, an Australian and a Norwegian character so it’d be fair to say mastering the accents has been pretty tough!”
Duns Players’ Norwegian for the night, Josh, added: “I have a very mild Norwegian accent - almost as if he has British parents!”
Tickets for ‘Brlycreem Boys’ on Friday, November 11, are priced £7.50/£5 (concessions) and available from Nairns and Number 18 in Duns are on the door.