Firstly, let me say what an absolute privilege it was to watch Dear Anthony.
The play, which covers events that took place during World War 1 & World War 2, is written and directed by TIFS drama teacher Emily Allcock, who used the story of her own family as emotional inspiration for the play, with the title character being based on her great-great Uncle. A particularly heartfelt directors note in the programme, describes the research Miss Allcock took into her family history as the basis for the story, resulting in her being able to locate and visit Anthony’s grave in 2018; 101 years after he lost his life in battle.
The cast and production team are drama students at the school, with the principal cast from the Key Stage 4 Drama Ambassadors (Year 10 & Year 11) and the ensemble from Year 7.
The first act covers the story of Anthony and his brother as they are drafted to fight in the First World War. The eagerness of young men wanting to fight for their King contrast with the stark reality of life in the trenches is excellently portrayed by the entire cast with huge involvement from the young ensemble. The end of act one is particularly emotive which brought a huge lump to the throat and served as a powerful act of remembrance to all the young lives lost during this time.
The second act begins by covering the years directly after WW1; how Anthony’s family managed the grief of losing a son, a brother and how they continued their lives. The story then progresses to the Second World War, and is told largely from the perspective of children evacuated to the countryside. The huge range of emotions they may have felt is portrayed extremely well by the cast as they show us the heartbreak of leaving their families and homes, the excitement of an adventure in the country, the uncertainty of their futures and the exhilaration at Winston Churchill’s announcement of the end hostilities on 8th May 1945.
The Island Free School certainly have some up and coming actors in their midst. All the principals played their roles beautifully and clearly take their positions as Drama Ambassadors to the younger students seriously. During the first act senior students Jacob French & Stanley Arnold were convincing as young brothers leaving to fight in a great war, whilst their parents (played by Nadia Barton & Silas Blevins) were heartbroken and fearful to see their sons depart. In Act 2, Abbie Revert delivered an incredibly strong and emotive performance as Amelia (Peter’s wife), with Kaitlyn Scriver and Frida Hornsby both delivering beautiful performances as Peter and Amelia’s daughters. Year 10 student Francesca Toyne showed the audience how life as an evacuee child could be terribly miserable, with her role as a cruel and unloving foster parent.
All those involved should be extremely proud of their contribution to Dear Anthony. The acting, staging and overall production were very strong, accompanied by a perfectly chosen soundtrack.
The story overall is extremely timely with the recent centenary of the end of World War 1. To know it was written by the director, based on real people in her life, makes the audience feel incredibly privileged to feel part of her storytelling. The powerful message of the play was made even more so as there were members of the British Legion in the audience, who were emotional after the play but full of praise for Dear Anthony.
Programme and refreshment donations were gifted to The Royal British Legion.
Review by Rebecca Finch