Review: Hidden Strangers at Chesterfield’s Rose Theatre

Premiering a play set in the First World War could not have been better timed, coming just a day after the country commemorated the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Youth Theatre explored the impact of life in wartime for those of German, Hungarian and Austrian extraction who lived in Derbyshire.

Hidden Strangers, presented by the Pomegranate Youth Theatre, at Chesterfield's Rose Theatre.

Hidden Strangers, presented by the Pomegranate Youth Theatre, at Chesterfield's Rose Theatre.

The play, entitled Hidden Strangers, showed how some British people turned on those who they regarded as aliens even though they had been born in the country or had married an English person.

A band was put into police cells the day after playing a concert in Buxton. a butcher at Hasland had his windows smashed by a baying mob and the hostility became too much for one governess who took her own life.

But the war also brought out the caring side in others. The play showed how one young Englishwoman defied her mother to volunteer as part of Violet Markham’s relief organisation which clothed those in need and how the Quakers helped to ensure the wellbeing of German chlldren.

Strong characterisation, song and live music breathed life into this powerful play which engrossed the audience seated around the performance space.

All 18 performers put heart and soul into their respective roles in a brilliantly performed, well-researched reconstruction of a shameful chapter in Derbyshire’s history.

A symbolic swapping of clothes at the end suggested that narrow-minded hostility could happen anywhere in the world at any time - a sombre lesson for us all.

Written by Louise Page and directed by Carole Copeland, Hidden Strangers has a second outing at Rose Theatre, Chesterfield, tomorrow (July 3) at 7.30pm and at the Judges Lodgings, Lincoln, on July 15.