My Boy Jack by Folkstone and Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society.
My Boy Jack by Folkestone and Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society
My Boy Jack is a straight play written by David Haig in 1997. The play follows the life of Rudyard Kipling (best known for The Jungle Book)and his family over the years surrounding World War 1. It also examines and effects of losing a loved child during the battle of Loos whilst also maintaining the great British stiff upper lip and decorum. Kipling was born in India and was his dedication and duty to serve the British Empire leading him to “persuade” his son to serve his country. Despite eyesight so bad he got turned down by both the navy and army John Kipling finds himself serving as Second Lieutenant of a company of Irish Guards after his father uses his connections to get him in, a move disagreed with by both Rudyard’s wife and daughter who make it well known they consider him to blame for all the events that followed.
This production has been done in conjunction with Step Short, a project set up to commemorate WW1 and the timing of this production of this play was deliberate to coincide with the centenary on 11/11/18 (the day after the run closes). The show in its own right showed a determination after a building site next door managed to slice through the main power cables to the theatre. This lead to not just disruptions leading up to opening night but also the requirement for the theatre to be powered off a hastily arranged generator.
The cast consisted of 10 members in total although most of the script revolves around the core family members. Much of My Boy Jack is either set in the Kipling house in Sussex or in the trenches although the “scenes” are more about the passage of time than a change in location on the main part. Some of the scene changes did feel a little too long although this might have been deliberately done by the director to suggest the passage of time and the tunes of a piano playing over the scene changes did stop them from being uncomfortable.
The set and scenery for the two main location settings were well designed and really did help take the audience into the location. However I do feel a little bit of haze/smoke might have added well to enhance the atmosphere especially in the trenches with the sound of shells exploding in the background.
The cast put on a very strong performance across the board with Ben Forrest’s portrayal of Rudyard staying strong and well spoken throughout in a style almost foreign to the public today but with authenticity for the time period in question. Another performance of note was that of Graham Burgess playing a shell-shocked Guardsman Bowe, who in the modern day would have been diagnosed with PTSD. His portrayal led to what I felt was the most emotional scene within the show and whilst Kipling’s stiff upper lip unmovable reserve continued I did expect to see a little more sign of emotion and distress from the 2 female members of the family.
All in all My Boy Jack was a great show well done and a nice view on the sad activities of the time. It is a shame that every teenager in the country won’t get a chance to see it (or even study it in History which now includes WW1 at GCSE level) however the show is running at the Tower Theatre in Folkestone until Nov 10th so if you have any interest in this period of history and get the chance please do.
Review by Andrew Parker
To find out more about FHODS visit their website.