Where and When
8th – 11th May 2002 @ The Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
Arms and the Man takes place during the 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian war. Raina Petkoff, a wealthy young woman with a taste for melodrama, is engaged to Sergius Saranoff, a dashing major in the Bulgarian army. On the night of her fiance’s triumph on the battlefield, a soldier in the Serbian army — a Swiss professional, with no national interest — bursts into her bedroom, and begs her to hide him so that he will not be killed. Raina complies, though she thinks the man a coward, especially when he tells her that he carries chocolates instead of pistol cartridges. Raina’s mother, imperious social climber Catherine, helps her smuggle the soldier away, but not before Raina has lost a bit of her heart to this pathetic specimen. When the menfolk return from war, Raina prepares to worship her victorious Sergius… until Captain Bluntschli, her “chocolate cream soldier”, appears to return a borrowed housecoat, and is invited to stay — and incidentally, to help with regimental transport — by hospitable Major Petkoff. Meanwhile, noble Sergius, disgusted with the practical realities of war, is more interested in flirting with Louka, the defiant housemaid who scorns to have “the soul of a servant.” As the Petkoff family, their servants, and the soldier, himself, struggle to hold on to their secrets and preserve their ideals, they are forced to question their romantic notions about social class, identity, war, and love. George Orwell once called Shaw’s Arms and the Man “the wittiest play he ever wrote… and in spite of being a very light comedy, the most telling.”
- Raina Petkoff – Ann Pond
- Catherine Petkoff – Jan Stevenson
- Major Petkoff – David Pile
- Captain Bluntschli – Martin Matthews
- Major Saranoff – Alex Compiani
- Louka – Lucy Harrold
- Nicola – Jeremy Austin
- Russian Officer – Chris Brown
- Soldier – Mark Ellen
- Director – Enid Davies
- Set Designer – Amanda Brown
- Stage Manager – Peter Brooks
- Costumes – Eclectia Costumes
For the Tivoli Theatre
- Stage Manager – Ashley Thorne
- Lighting and Sound – Russell Parker
Drama group on to a Shaw thing
Wimborne Drama brings the curtain down on a record breaking season with George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, which opens at the Tivoli Theatre on Wednesday.
Preparing for battle means only one thing for Shaw’s unheroic hero, Captain Bluntschli – making sure his cartridge belt is loaded with chocolate rather than bullets.This satire shatters all romantic notions about battlefiled bravery and idealistic love, and captivating characters, hidden identities and schemimg servants combine to make an entertaining and sharp comedy with a romantic twist.
The play is directed by Enid Davies and features Lucy Harrold, Ann Pond, Alex Campiani, Martin Matthews, Jeremy Austin, David Pile, Jan Stevenson and Chris Brown.
And speaking of chocolates, success has been particularly sweet for the company this year, as they have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of their first production. Origianlly formed in 1928 as a social club for theatre lovers the group was slow to find its feet as an acting company, but after the success of its debut production, Ambrose Applejohn’s Adventure in 1932, it has continued to entertain the people of Wimborne to this day.
After the demolition of the Women’s Institute Hall, the company moved to Church House. Fire restrictions caused this venue to be abandoned in favour of “the new secondary modern school at Pamphill” (now Queen Elizabeth’s School). When the Allendale Centre opened in 1970 the company at last had a permanent home in which it remained for the next 24 years.
In 1994 came a major step forward when Wimborne Drama was invited to become the resident amateur company at the newly reopened art deco Tivoli Theatre. It hasn’t looked back since, picking up a total of four Daily Echo Curtain Call Awards for its productions of The Madness of George III (2001) and The Roses of Eyam (1999)
A chorus line of costumed, folk-dancing scene-changers was just one of the amusing touches in this production, but it did add to my feeling that everyone might burst into song at any moment – the operetta The Chocolate Soldier is based on the play.
Shaw can be slightly heavy going at times, and although the story – far too complex to relate here – had both comic and profound moments, all well expressed, it took time to get into its stride.
Martin Matthews excelled as “chocolate cream soldier” Captain Bluntschli, giving a convincing, well-balanced performance, and Ann Pond was suitably dignified as his love interest, Raina Petkoff, although I found her a little too mature to be entirely convincing.
Stealing many of the acting honours was Lucy Harrold, creating a real little spitfire of a character as servant-girl Louka. There were good characterisations too from Jan Stevenson (Catherine Petkoff), David Pile (Paul Petkoff), Alex Compiani (Sergius Saranoff) and Jeremy Austin (Nicola).
Full marks, too, for an ingenious set, although I was surprised to find that the library of which the family was so proud contained so few books. Used as fuel on that most convincing stove, no doubt.