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The Kirkbymoorside Town Blog - Review: Lilies on the Land

Thu 26 Apr 2012

Written by Jean Richards, Theatre Editor, The Kirkbymoorside Town Blog

 

In 1939, with the onset of war, it became apparent that more food needed to be grown in Britain, and that there were fewer men available to work the land. The simple solution was the formation of the Women’s Land Army – commonly called ‘Land Girls’ – to replace the men in field and farm. Until the last decade or so, their huge contribution to the war effort was largely overlooked in histories and memorials, but latterly they have received due – if disgracefully overdue – recognition, officially with the award of medals to survivors, and popularly in the film ‘Land Girls’, and the TV series of the same name.

I wondered, therefore, if there was enough left to be said to sustain the play ‘Lilies on the Land’ now showing at York Theatre Royal. And it was advertised as ‘touching’, and ‘heart-warming’, the sort of adjectives which ring alarm bells with someone who likes her theatre with guts. But the origin of the piece was interesting. The curiously named company ‘the Lions part ‘ became interested in the land girls while devising a companion piece to a play about prisoners of war, and invited recollections from surviving land girls, from which 'Lilies' was developed.

To call ‘Lilies’ a play is somewhat misleading. Four actors are on stage the whole time, each representing a composite land girl character: well-heeled Poppy, Vera, longing for escape, sheltered Geordie Margie, and resourceful Londoner Peggy. Their words are largely taken from the submitted reminiscences, tailored into topics, and interspersed with songs, sketches and original radio broadcasts. And it works very well, chiefly because it is never romanticised.

Yes they went to dances, and one of them ends up married to a farm worker. But what comes over most clearly is the hard, unremitting, dirty, physical labour that was involved, and their determination not to give up, not so much for the war effort perhaps as to win the respect of the farmers who thought they couldn’t do it. If you have teenage daughters, take them to see this, and imagine the lives of these women, only seventy years ago.

Read the review on the Kirkbymooreside Town Blog here

 

 

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