Guardian angel takes to troubled skies

NOTIONS of divine intervention at times of great human trial have been central to story-telling ever since people first huddled around their winter firesides.

The idea that Mankind alone does not determine his destiny fulfils a yearning for salvation when all appears lost.

Arthur Machen’s The Bowmen, in which ethereal archers from Agincourt come to the aid of outnumbered British infantry at Mons in 1914, is a classic example.

It’s perhaps not possible to tell if writer Paul Gallico knew about Machen’s story when he wrote The Snow Goose but the signs do indeed point to at least some awareness.

The setting is the Essex marshes in 1940. Eccentric artist Philip lives alone in an abandoned lighthouse where he spends all his time painting and caring for his beloved migratory birds.

One day, he is joined by Frith, a young girl who is carrying an injured snow goose that has been wounded by wildfowlers’ shotguns.

After much loving care, the bird eventually recovers and takes to the wing once more. But it has not left for good…

As the crisis at Dunkirk gathers momentum, Philip takes his small sailing boat across the Channel and joins the rescue mission to save thousands of British soldiers trapped by the German war machine.

Suddenly, the goose appears overhead like some guardian angel, protecting the man who had once protected him.

Three former members of Malvern Theatres Young Company, under the sterling direction of Nic Lloyd, do more than justice to this parable of mercy and compassion in a cruel world.

Rhys Harris-Clarke takes the role of Philip and makes it his very own, Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn as Frith exudes an electrifying stage presence, while Daniel Davis’ battle-weary soldier effortlessly conveys the horror of being under constant enemy fire.

This was a compelling joint enterprise by young actors displaying great promise under the guiding hand of a skilled director. It runs until Saturday (December 19) and is a credit to all concerned.

John Phillpott

 

 

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