Play for Today: Season 9, Episode 14
The play activities of seven children living in the countryside during the summer of 1943 end in tragedy; the children were played by adults in childrens clothing. The title is taken from A.E. Housman's 1896 poem: "Into my heart an air that kills; From yon far country blows; What are those blue remembered hills..." It's 1943 on a summer's afternoon and 7 children play in the fields & woods of old England. The children's roles are all played by adults to act as "A magnifying glass to show what it's like to be a child." "When we dream of childhood," said Dennis Potter, "we take our present selves with us. It is not the adult world writ small; childhood is the adult world writ large." Since Potter viewed childhood as "adult society without all the conventions and the polite forms which overlay it," he repeated the device he had introduced 14 years earlier (in "Stand Up, Nigel Barton"); children's roles were cast with adult actors in this naturalistic memory drama of a "golden day" that turns to tragedy. On a sunny, summer afternoon in bucolic England of 1943, seven West Country children (two girls, five boys) play in the Forest of Dean. Their games and spontaneous actions (continuous and in real time) reflect their awareness of WWII, but no adults are present to intrude. As the group moves through the woods and back to the grassy hills, their words and actions illustrate how "childhood is not transparent with innocence." When the two girls push a pram into a barn to play house, the casting concept is heightened, doubling back on itself in a remarkable moment: adults are suddenly seen to be acting as children who are pretending to be adults, and lines from Housman echo across the years: "That is the land of lost content/I see it shining plain/The happy highways where I went/And cannot come again."