This is the second of three news articles from the Evening Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent, England) covering a 1995 revival of the New Vic Theatre’s 1971 original musical documentary, Hands Up! For You the War Is Ended.
See also “Hands Up—For You the War Is Ended!,” “More on the Camp 59 Theatre Subjects,” and “Prisoners of Experience.”
Captions of newspaper photos:
Daniel Tomlinson and Stefan Marling, who are to play the parts of Bill Armitt and Frank Bayley.
Bill Armitt as he is today. “Even though Bill is now 78, I can see how he was by the way he stands and what drives him,” says the actor who plays him as a young man.
Frank Bayley in uniform in 1940. Sadly, the Hartshill newsagent died a few years after the original production.
Previewing the Return of a Stage Documentary on the Wartime
News In Focus
Friday, March 31, 1995
THE revival of the New Vic’s documentary “Hands Up For You The War Is Ended” will bring back many memories for those who lived through the war, while at the same time reveal to a younger audience the extraordinary stories of ordinary soldiers who escaped from capture as prisoners of war.
The play, which is sponsored by the Evening Sentinel, is based on the real life exploits of a group of Staffordshire troops. It was first performed in 1971 and is being staged again from Wednesday, April 12, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day. JACKIE WHITTAKER, pictured, sat in on rehearsals.
Actor meets the soldier he plays
Playing Bill as he was 50 years ago at the New Vic
ACTOR Daniel Tomlinson has come face-to-face with the character he is to play in “Hands Up For You The War Is Ended.” He is Bill Armitt, of Scholar Green, now 78 years old and a former prisoner of war who escaped captivity by walking over the Alps and into Switzerland.
But Daniel has to play Bill as he was 50 years ago—roughly the same age as Daniel is now.
This is the first time that the actor has played the part of a living person as opposed to a fictional character, but he believes he is well prepared.
“A lot of what I do in based on real people. I like to watch and look at their mannerisms. For a musical, I once went to a train station and chose one of the people waiting and observed them and imagined what their life story was.
“But in this case meeting Bill was very fulfilling. I have learnt a lot from his speech patterns.
“Even though Bill is now 78, I can see how he was by the way he stands and what drives him,” said Daniel, who has been at the New Vic since last August.
“I’m not trying to deliberately imitate him, but to get the essence of what he is.
“I feel a greater sense of responsibility to make sure that I portray him correctly and how things actually were.
“We have been practicing our drill routines, because there will be a lot of ex-soldiers in the audience who will know whether we are doing it right or not.”
Stefan Marling, 25, is taking on another prominent role—that of Frank Bayley, a Hartshill newsagent whose story of escape first inspired theatre director Peter Cheeseman to stage the documentary.
Sadly, Frank died a few years after the original production.
“I have never done anything that is so close to the audience before.
“This documentary is like the voice of a community. Every line has a meaning to someone,” said Stefan, who has been listening to tapes of Frank Bayley telling his story.
“I did six months national service in the Swedish Air Force. I never thought it would be any use to me, but now I can identify with the boredom, routine and how food becomes really important.
“I know what it is like to be an 18-year-old and be plucked out from normal life and into a totally different one.”
Italian lessons on the menu
RESTAURANT owner Vittoria Cirillo served up a lesson in Italian to the cast of the New Vic Theatre.
Some of the action of “Hands Up” is staged in Italy, where many Staffordshire soldiers were held in PoW camps.
To ensure that the actors who play Italians speak their lines correctly, Vittoria and his wife Jacky, who is head of languages at Edensor High School, Longton, gave them a few hours of tuition.
“They were very attentive students,” said Vittoria, who runs Ristorante Capri in Glebe Street, Stoke.
Their master class has been put on tape for the actors to study further as homework.
Vittoria himself looked death in the face when he was just 17 years old.
“We evaculated from Naples to a village just below Monte Cassino, but ended up in the front line with a big battle there,” he recalled.
When villagers killed a German officer, the Nazis decided that 10 villagers should die as revenge. Vittoria and his father were lined up with eight others.
“My father pleaded for our lives. He told them that we were Neopolitans and not from the village.
“The Germans told us we could go, so long as we left the village. We heard the others being shot. They were old people who used to sit around the church. The Nazis then burnt down the village.”
The family returned to Naples in 1948.