An August Bank Holiday Lark
by Deborah McAndrew
Directed by Barrie Rutter
Presented by Northern Broadsides in association with New Vic Theatre
26th April - 3rd May 2014
Photograph by Nobby Clarke
This is one of a multitude of events commemorating the outbreak of the
first world war, but this play, which is concerned with the civilian population's
experience of the conflict, includes lots of clog dancing!
Set in the heart of Lancashire in a fictional village, amid the hills
and valleys of the countryside, the play focuses on a group of country
folk who become soldiers, willingly and unwillingly.
The period covered is from the balmy August days before the tragic war
began, when the traditional August Bank Holiday rushcart festival took
place, during which a hay wagon piled with cut reeds was paraded through
the locality, accompanied by a team of morris men adorned in ribbon and
flower-laden hats, to a similar time the following year. It depicts starkly
the devastating changes that had taken place, including the loss of a
number of the dancers.
Writer Deborah McAndrew did not include any use of poppies, whether red
or white, in the production, feeling that they are an over-used metaphor.
Poppies represent fallen soldiers, and for McAndrew the play pays tributes
to the wives, mothers and fathers, and the soldiers that returned home.
Unfortunately a lot of them , including one of the characters in the play,
lost a leg. Sadly, no more morris dancing for him.
The title of the play is derived from the sardonic poem MCMXIV, written
by Philip Larkin. He describes the many enlistment queues, enticed by
Kitchener's propaganda, 'Grinning as it it were all an August Bank Holiday
Life in the village would never be the same again, with the community
bearing a heavy loss, not only in terms of men killed but also in the
loss of treasured traditional ways and customs, swept away by the bloody
The music of the morris dancing is not to my taste - clog dancing leaves
me cold - but I can appreciate the authenticity of the performances of
the morris men and women and the enjoyment and pleasure it gave to people.