by Gerald Sybleyras translated by Tom Stoppard
The year is 1959. Three Frenchmen, veterans of the First World War, reside in a home for old soldiers situated in the French countryside. Henri has been trhere for twenty-five years and is resigned to the idea of seeing out his life in this establishment, cared for by Sister Madeleine and her fellow nuns. Philippe, a resident of ten years standing is similarly resigned, thoughn a recent fear of Sister Madeleine and her motives has made life less than comfortable for this injured and mentally damaged veteran. However, this relative stability is disturbed by the arrival of the restless Gustave, a man who, though suffering from some form of agoraphobia, incites his companions to escape the confines of the home to seek new adventures and experiences. These three make an unlikely team and Gustaves insistence on taking a stone statue of a dog with them complicates the project, so what will be their destination? Indochina? The local village? Or the poplars on the horizon?
Cast and Crew
Director: Dave Baldwin
|Stage Manager||Richard Worreall|
|Costume and Props||Stella Truscott|
Dates and Venues
Karen Richardson in The Woolhope Herald
“Heroes" at the Parish Hall - July. 2OIO
Once again, the Bare Bones Theatre Company provided a wonderful evening of entertainment for the Woolhope audience with it’s July
Production Of “Heroes" by Tom Stoppard. Hot on the heels of Sylvia this excellent company impressed again as they captivated and
delighted the audience with just three men and a dog!.
Set in France in 1959 in a sanatorium for old soldiers, our heroes are three French veterans of the First World War. Firstly there is Henri, played
by the perfectly suited Dave Baldwin. The longest ’serving’ resident of the three (25 years), he is a sanguine, likeable character whose wartime
activities have left him with a pronounced limp. Then there is Philippe, a relative new comer of just 10 years who, with a piece of shrapnel lodged
in his head, has the unfortunate habit of passing out both suddenly andwith increasing regularity. Gordon Stewart seemed to have a real twinkle
in his eye when playing this character and had some wonderful lines. ‘We’ll take them from the rear, Captain’ a phrase repeated each time he comes
round from his blackouts, causing much laughter on every delivery.
Finally, we have Howard J ones’ Gustave, an agoraphobic with a senseof adventure who came to live at the sanatorium just 6 months ago.
When Philippe mentions his piano playing days of the past, Gustave's comment of “Passing out every few minutes .... bit of a drawback
for a concert pianist!" is typical of this wry character. With a dry and sometimes cynical wit, he is a perfect foil for the romantic and
positive Henri. And of course, we mustn’t forget the life size stone statue of a dog, which Philippe is convinced is alive. This delusion is
not helped by the fact that Gustave moves it every day!
In a scene reminiscent of Last of the Summer Wine, but with awooden bench replacing the dry stone wall, the play is set on the
terrace outside their rooms, from which the three discuss the various goings on within the home. Much of the comedy and pathos derives
from the relationship betweenthese old comrades in arms, and many in the audience (aka Will Pridie, David Walker and Ian Mclachlan), seemed
to identify with these slightly mad, sometimes grumpy old men and the dreams they still have. Whenever one of them is absent the others
earnestly agree "You know he’s not the same as us, he’s not quite right in the head’! Philippe is also convinced that Sister Madelaine
(the matron-in charge) is killing off anyone with a duplicate date of birth, and with the arrival of a new resident with the same birthday
as his own, he believes his fate is sealed. To make matters worse, the other terrace upon which their fellow ’inmates’ reside is about to
be dug up and they are therefore extremely worried that they will soon be invaded by the hoy paloy. Gustave decides that their only option
is to escape (not bad for an agoraphobic) - but to where? Henri favours a picnic in the local village,Philippe the distant poplars on the horizon,
whilst Gustave is all for Indochina! Unsurprisingly Gustave doesn’t manage to persuade them that Indochina is the destination for them,
so the poplars are deemed to be the happy medium. The shenanigans as they plan their trip are hilarious, in particular as they practice
roping up together for the strenuous climb up the hill. When Gustave casually mentions that the stone dog will also be coming, poor Henri
walks off in despair and it becomes obvious that their planned escape will sadly remain just a dream. As the play closes,we are left with
the three of them (and the dog) staring wistfully at the far off poplars, wondering what might have been.
Throughout the play, each of the cast captures both the humour and sadness of their characters to perfection and there grows a sympathy and
fondness for each of our heroes in their twilight years. Another great A Bare Bones production, but if you missed it watch out for them
returning to Woolhope in November with a new play.
The Herald would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Bare Bones Youth (age 9-16) on their success at the 2010 Hereford County
Drama Festival. Their excellent performance of ‘Rabbit’ by David Foxton won them the coveted Stennet Trophy for best Youth Production. Well done!
Karen Richardson - Woolhope Herald