Wartime encounter ends in 2002

Writer Nick Payne and director Clare Lizzimore in rehearsals for One Day When We Were Young in the Roundabout season at the Crucible Studio '''Credit Elyse Marks Photography
Writer Nick Payne and director Clare Lizzimore in rehearsals for One Day When We Were Young in the Roundabout season at the Crucible Studio '''Credit Elyse Marks Photography

THE first of a trio of new plays about love, life and the world which make up the Roundabout Season in the Crucible Studio, One Day When We Were Young, opened this week.

For the season, Paines Plough and Sheffield Theatres have built a 150-seat portable in-the-round auditorium that allows audiences to experience theatre in a unique, intimate setting. The specially built performance space will then tour across the country.

One Day When We Were Young, by Nick Payne, is a love story depicted over three time scales – 1942, 1963 and 2002. The characters, Leonard and Violet, meet and spend a night together in a small hotel room in Bath in wartime, wondering if it will be their last, and knowing their lives will never be the same whatever happens.

“The starting point for the story was reading about the so-called Baedeker Raids in which the Luftwaffe bombed targets with no strategic purpose,” explains the writer. “Bath was one of the places attacked and a hotel called the Regina was destroyed. So I created two people who were 17 or 18 staying in the Hotel Regina, survived and went their separate ways and then met up again later in life.

“Leonard’s experience in World War Two affects the rest of his life and the same is true of her but in a different way. It’s a microcosm of the way the country has changed over 60 years.”

In particular, he says, the certainty of the ideology of wartime has diminished by the Sixties which is a source of resentment in Leonard while Violet sees things differently.

As she embraces the onset of consumerism and is excited at the prospect of having a machine to wash the clothes he is appalled by the American commericalism.

A graduate of York University, Payne’s first play, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, was staged at the Bush Theatre and won the George Devine Award. He followed that with Wanderlust for the Royal Court Theatre upstairs and next year he will have a contemporary drama also exploring the effects of war, Lay Down Your Cross, premiered at the Hampstead Theatre.

The Roundabout plays will be performed by an ensemble of four actors, Maia Alexander, Alistair Cope, Kate O’Flynn and Andrew Sheridan, two in each of the first two, and then all four will come together for the last.

One Day When We Were Young runs until October 15.

The second play in the Roundabout season, Lungs is on from October 19-29 and The Sound of Heavy Rain November 16-26.

On the final Thursday and Saturday audiences have the opportunity to see all three shows in one day with back-to-back performances starting at 3pm.