Laurie Lee’s charming autobiography is imaginatively adapted for the
stage by James Roose-Evans. The adult Lee, played by Roger Bingham,
perfectly provides poetic, wide-eyed, nostalgic, retrospective commentary to
his salad days and gets in the thick of the action, occasionally rubbing
shoulders with his youthful self, Stuart Rooker.
It’s a feel-good, wholesome and cosy memoir, which has the audience
grinning from ear to ear throughout. Lee is upfront and honest however to
admit that even the lovely, sleepy Cotswold village of his childhood is not
exempt from harsher, less salubrious elements of life.
Lee’s upbringing is by no means easy. He idolises his mother, Edwina
Gascoyne who single-handedly brings up six children in relative poverty
after his father abandons the home. He chooses to focus on the more cheery
aspects however and paints an idyllic existence. Although a time of rapid
change during The Great War, the fond memories are of a bygone age.
School comprises rote learning of tables and religion. Home is filled
with mother’s stories whilst the children sit round the kitchen table,
entranced. Entertainment is a merry go round at Weston Super Mare and bad
jokes and singing at a festival.
The play is finely directed by Phil Gascoyne, and all the cast are caught
up in the sheer wonder and amiability of Lee’s life. The lighting, set and
motion picture backdrop expertly depict the passing of the seasons. When the
titular drink is poured in a sunny meadow, it’s a bitter-sweet experience as
innocent youth is lost forever.