Fairies at the bottom of the garden? Sounds like a fanciful piece of theatre – but in 1917 the true story of the Cottingley Fairies took a war-torn Britain by storm.
The recent Farlington School production of ‘The Light Burns Blue’ captured perfectly the mood of the time and a gripping performance by this talented cast kept the audience enthralled.
The photograph of the fairies – a fake, of course, but nevertheless very convincing –was the brainchild of a seventeen-year-old girl, sensitively portrayed by Ellie Crouch. She and her group of friends exuded vitality and fun – as well as very lively imaginations – and helped give the production its gripping pace.
The forgery is discovered by a young reporter, and here Rebecca Walker expertly put across a very modern dilemma: break the bad news or protect the vulnerable?
What was remarkable was that most of the 20-strong cast – sadly too many to name individually – took on four or five roles, ranging from vicars to villagers, soldiers to theosophists, painters to pub landlords, and invested these cameos with well-observed mannerisms and personality.
The plot kept up a strong sense of mystery – not surprising perhaps with the appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and until the last minute the rapt audience had no idea how it would end.
Mark Slawinski’s excellent direction conveyed the prejudices women faced at this time and his thoughtful use of music also captured the underlying anxiety of living in the middle of the Great War.
The “spin” of the photograph gave hope to grief-stricken families in a devastated nation, and, by the end of this moving production, we realise why the fake excited comment as much as any modern social media image.