The King’s Arms, Salford; Sunday 10th September 2017.
March 9th, 1941. With the Second World War raging, a group of aspiring actors in the relative safety of rural England decide that they need to come together and do their bit for king and country: a production of Henry V, with the aim of raising funds to buy a Spitfire for the war effort.
Greyhounds depicts the trials and tribulations of a war-time effort to raise the spirits of the nation with a rousing rendition of classic Shakespeare. Just put aside the inconvenient truth of the matter for a moment – namely that most non-theatrically-obsessed Britons of that (and every other) day would rather suck on Adolf Hitler’s bristly moustache than sit through a Shakespeare play – and what you have here is a cute little period drama built on a group of eccentric characters and plenty of individual sub-plots.
Star of the show is the straight-faced and excruciatingly awkward Katherine, played by Laura Crow, who also happens to be the playwright making her writing debut with Greyhounds. Katherine knows the precise cost of each component that makes up a Spitfire: the wings, the tail, the gun, the oil tank, the propeller; and she’s also a genius when it comes to solving the Telegraph crossword. But in any social interaction scenario (particularly when there’s a man involved) she’s just hopeless, countering potentially leading questions such as “do you have a cigarette?” with ridiculous though factually correct answers such as “yes, I have five”.
Greyhounds is a show where five actors play five actors. Set in the space of just over a month in the spring of 1941, a series of rehearsals raise worrying questions about whether the performing cast are ready to give war-torn Britain a worthy performance of Henry V. And along that journey there are twists and turns, some dark secrets are revealed, and some intriguing relationships begin to form and then quickly break apart.
Performed in the cosy intimacy of the studio space at the King’s Arms in Salford, Greyhounds is a surprisingly charming and alluring tale which doesn’t initially seem to be heading anywhere particularly exciting yet it goes on to eventually culminate in a rather disturbing and wholly unexpected finale.
Greyhounds leaves a series of unanswered questions: plots and characters are developed but then nothing seems to get resolved, that could be frustrating but actually, in a strange way, it seems to be a good thing as plenty is left to the imagination. And unanswered questions about plots and characters lead to something else: the Britons of 1941 were getting a performance of Henry V – what the Britons of 2017 need is a sequel to Greyhounds.