THE SHADOW FACTORY – NUFFIELD THEATRE – REVIEW

‘Critically Acclaimed show about Southampton’s involvement in WW11, written by Hampshire born playwright Howard Brenton.’

This show is essentially about planes. Spitfires to be exact and all about the way that they came to be manufactured in the city in 1940. Doesn’t sound particularly exciting does it? War dramas are generally all doom and gloom and I could not be less excited by planes I don’t think.

However, people have raved about this show. In fact, it’s back by popular demand after a sell out run last year at the Nuffield new City venue. I was curious to see what the fuss was about. Also, I’m a BIG Hollyoaks fan and this so happens to feature Joe Tracini better know as Dennis from the show.

As always when I go and watch a new show, I try not to look too much into it, so I didn’t know what to expect at all from this.

From the second it started I was completely transfixed.

It’s not like your average theatre show. The stage is in the centre so not only do you have a great view wherever you sit but it also makes you feel a bit like you’re on the stage with them, you almost feel like you’re a part of the show yourself.

The story begins with the bombing of the Spitfire factory in Woolston. It was destroyed beyond repair and it was essential that these new planes, our only hope of victory, were still built and able to be used by us in the war. The government decided to requisition local businesses and homes in Southampton to create these ‘Shadow Factories’ where the parts could be made so the Spitfires could still be manufactured. It tests friendships and relationships and shows the hardship of war, but also shows how instrumental Southampton was in this part of WW11. Something I had no idea about I’m ashamed to say seeing as I live here.

Being a British play by a British Playwright there was of course some humour in this, courtesy of the Grandmother who really made me belly laugh (played by Denise Black who also plays the part of American aristocrat Lady Cooper). Her delivery of some of the lines absolutely had me in fits.

Casting in this is wonderful. You can tell each and every one of the actors in this love and adores this show. They ARE these characters and that makes it a joy to watch. It’s unusual to see a show and there not to be a ‘weak link’ in the casting. They all had great chemistry. I don’t know if it’s because you’re so close to the ‘action’ that you feel more emotion from them, but it was just so moving and delightful and with so much affection for the story and for our city.

The ensemble in this show are actually made up of local people of all ages who are so incredibly passionate about the story and so proud to be involved and that really does come across from them.

Being in a smaller theatre there is no extravagant stage set for this. The floor is used to project images including local maps which is wonderful it shows you exactly where bits of this are set. Places that do exist and we know so it makes it all the more poignant and real. There were a few incidental props used now and again but the majority of the ambience and emotion are actually generated from lighting!! Of all things! Essentially strip lighting that moves. It doesn’t sound like much but honestly, it’s probably the best lighting I’ve ever seen in a show. It was incredible. Who knew that just by moving these lights you’d be able to simulate and believe that there is a Spitfire flying! It was so clever, and it really made such a difference to the feel of the show.

This is by far one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I loved every single second of it. Who would have thought that learning about our history would have been so wonderful? I was on the edge of my seat through the whole performance. It’s an incredibly well written and important piece of theatre, and a definite must see. I’ll be going again before the run ends.

THE SHADOW FACTORY IS SHOWING AT NUFFIELD CITY UNTIL MARCH 2ND TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM WWW.NSTHEATRE.CO.UK

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